Algorithms Help Turbines Share the Wind

carbonnation writes: As Spock so elegantly opined, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Today Stanford U researchers presented the clearest proof to date that self-sacrifice can also benefit wind farms. In their demonstration at an Alberta wind farm, one turbine sacrifices a fifth of its generating potential to enable better performance by neighboring turbines, boosting the group’s collective output. And all it takes to harness this altruistic behavior is a small (but intelligent) tweak to their control systems. “It is called ‘wake steering’ because rotors are turned about their towers to point slightly away from the oncoming wind and thus deflect their wakes away from downstream turbines,” reports IEEE Spectrum. “To determine the best yaw angle for their experiment, the Stanford team fed five years of wind speed, wind direction and power generation data from the six test turbines to their proprietary optimization algorithm. Combining that data with a simple wind model, the algorithm projected that yawing each of the five upstream turbines about 20 degrees to the north would maximize the group’s generation from the northwest winds.”

Next, since the researchers couldn’t reprogram the control systems running at Pincher Creek, they repositioned the direction-tracking wind vanes atop the turbines’ nacelles during the 10-day test and thereby tricked the control system to turn 20 degrees off the wind. The results were significant: power generation rose 13 percent under 7-8 meters per second (mps) wind speeds. “Steering had a still greater impact amidst slower northwest winds by reducing the times when the wind hitting turbines fell below the 5 mps — the threshold at which they automatically shut down,” the report adds. “For 5-6 mps winds wake steering boosted generation by up to 47 percent.”

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