Cheaper Wind Power Is New Notre Dame Lab’s Goal

This fall, visitors and returning students at the University of Notre Dame will be treated to a new structure on campus–one that’s likely to stick out from the classic collegiate Gothic buildings, expansive quadrangles and the campus’s other religious landmarks. The school recently celebrated the erection of a wind turbine and a meteorological tower on its White Field, two installations that mark the establishment of the Laboratory for Enhanced Wind Energy Design, called “eWiND” for short. The new turbine joins a vertical-axis turbine already producing power for the Uuniversity grid.

EWiND is part of Notre Dame’s $80 million Strategic Research Investment program which hopes to spotlight the school’s efforts in the realm of research and technology. The program seeks to revolutionize the renewable energy industry by developing “virtual aerodynamic shaping” for enhanced wind energy systems, among other things.

Notre Dame eWiND

image via Notre Dame

According to a recent release, 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.

Specifically, the turbine research laboratory will focus on reducing the relative cost of wind power through 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.

Thomas Corke and Robert Nelson, the two professors who will direct the lab, hope to be able to demonstrate that this technological enhancement increases power generation and extends the life span of wind turbine systems while decreasing the cost of harvesting wind energy. When fully operational, the White Field facility will feature two wind turbines, one that has been modified with the plasma actuators and one without, to serve as a baseline, while the meteorological tower will document wind conditions.

Here’s a video from Notre Dame about the lab’s research focus:

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog