To make a palpable impact on the US and global energy portfolio, wind energy will need to be deployed on vary large, but attainable scales. For example, to generate 20% of the US electricity by 2030 with wind would require increasing the installed capacity from the currently installed 35 GW to over 300 GW, at a rate of 14 GW/year, or over 4500 3 MW turbines per year. Successful achievement of such deployment would reduce electric sector CO2 emissions by 825 tons annually, would reduce other pollutants, reduce water use, and diversify our national energy portfolio with an energy source not subject to fuel volatility. A key barrier to large scale deployment is the cost of electricity from wind energy. Costs can be reduced by increasing turbine efficiency, by reducing fabrication and installation costs, extending life and by better siting of wind farms. Bringing down cost will require advances in the science and technology of wind energy including materials and structures, fluid flows, controls, drive trains, generators and grid integration. Public acceptance of large scale wind energy will also require research into the effect wind turbines on wildlife and humans and strategies for the mitigation of such effects. Communication with the public and with regulators about the benefits and drawbacks of wind are critical to the success of wind energy. Attainment of these goals requires a coordinated effort of research and education involving universities, industry and government. Engineers at all levels must be educated to operate, design, and implement wind farms and to research the next generation of wind energy technologies. Wind energy activities in the Sibley School focus on education through our course on wind energy and M.Eng. projects. Current efforts focus on developing research collaborations in wind turbine materials and structures, control of turbines and wind farms, and study of wind farm fluid dynamics. Using active and passive turbulence generating grids in a wind tunnel, we are attempting to mimic the complex wind fields observed in the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL). In the ABL there are often interactions of two or more distinct turbulence scales (due to boundary layer-free stream interactions, for example) and these result in complex turbulence statistics that are significantly non-Gaussian, with rare intense gusts . These rare gust events can have catastrophic effects on wind turbine gear boxes and towers.
Research Area Faculty
The faculty researchers in this area exemplify the collaborative nature of the work done at Cornell Engineering.