LIDAR controls wind turbine

A LIDAR system installed on the nacelle controls a wind turbine in Boulder. Photo: University of Stuttgart
A LIDAR system installed on the nacelle controls a wind turbine in Boulder. Photo: University of Stuttgart

Scientists at the Endowed Chair of Wind Energy (Stiftungslehrstuhl Windenergie, SWE) at the University of Stuttgart, together with colleagues at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Boulder, USA, have succeeded in controlling a wind turbine using a LIDAR system installed on the nacelle – for the first time worldwide, the researchers say. The LIDAR (light detection and ranging) system allows the rotor speed and other operational control parameters to be adjusted to an approaching wind field before it reaches the turbine. Using this technique, the wind-induced load can be reduced, turbines could be constructed using less material, and the energy yield could be increased.

In order to obtain measurements that allow an incoming wind field to be predicted at an early stage, a commercial LIDAR system was combined with a specially developed scanner unit. The scanner can point the system's laser beam in any direction in order to measure the entire wind field in front of a wind turbine at arbitrary points and thus to model its three-dimensional effect. The system was installed on the nacelle of a two-blade wind turbine located at the test site of the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) in Boulder.

If the rotor blades are turned into or out of the wind soon enough, the rotor speed is kept almost constant, even in the case of gusts. Over the 20 years of a turbine's life, this substantially reduces fatigue as well as extreme loads.

The LIDAR technology is a laser-based optical remote sensing method for measuring wind speeds from a distance. Whereas conventional LIDAR measurements have been made from the ground, the new development allows even rather complex measurements to be performed from the nacelle.


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