Optimizing Wind Farms Collectively

An offshore wind farm.

In a typical wind farm, each wind turbine aligns itself to the local wind direction. In an ideal world where every turbine was completely independent, this would maximize the power produced. But with changing wind directions and many turbines, it’s inevitable that upstream wind turbines will interfere with the flow their downstream neighbors see.

So, instead, a research team investigated how to optimize the collective output of a wind farm. Their strategy involved intentionally misaligning the upstream wind turbines to improve conditions for downstream turbines. They found that the loss in power generation by upstream turbines could be more than recovered by improved performance downstream.

After testing their models over many months in an actual wind farm, they reported that their methodology could, on average, increase overall energy output by about 1.2 percent. That may sound small, but the team estimates that if existing wind farms used the method, it would generate additional power equivalent to the needs of 3 million U.S. households. (Image credit: N. Doherty; research credit: M. Howland et al.; via Boston Globe; submitted by Larry S.)

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