A wind turbine and a meteorological tower recently erected on the University of Notre Dame's White Field are a highly visible symbol of the University's commitment to establish a premier wind energy research program.
Thomas Corke and Robert Nelson, professors of aerospace and mechanical engineering, are directing the effort, which includes the establishment of a Laboratory for Enhanced Wind Energy Design, titled "eWiND." The program will seek to develop revolutionary designs that involve "virtual aerodynamic shaping" for enhanced wind energy systems. The laboratory will provide a rich environment for multidisciplinary investigations including fluid dynamics, acoustics, fluid-structure interaction, design optimization, materials, failure modeling, system feedback and control, and atmospheric turbulence.
The eWiND initiative is a key component of the University's Strategic Research Investment program that has allocated $80 million of Notre Dame's own money to advance the scope, excellence and visibility of its research enterprise.
Although wind energy has long been recognized as a low-cost, clean source of electricity, substantial reductions in the cost of per kilowatt hour are needed for the technology to become competitive with fossil-powered generating technologies. The White Field wind turbine research laboratory is aimed at overcoming this obstacle through the design of advanced rotors that feature a Notre Dame-patented plasma flow control technology. The plasma actuators are designed to increase the energy capture of wind turbines without increasing the weight of the rotors.
Corke and Nelson hope to demonstrate that the technological enhancement increases power generation and extends the life span of wind turbine systems while decreasing the cost of harvesting wind energy. The White Field facility will feature two wind turbines, including one that serves as a baseline and one that has been modified with the plasma actuators. The laboratory's meteorological tower provides for continuous documentation of wind conditions.
The Notre Dame-patented plasma control technology has many other applications, including reducing both airplane landing gear noise and air resistance (drag) on the back side of a truck, which results in substantial fuel savings.