Research Magazine- Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science - The University of Texas at Dallas

UT Dallas Wind Energy Working at Gale Force

UT Dallas Wind Energy Working at Gale Force

All the currents necessary to reach the promises of renewable wind energy have now converged at UT Dallas. Internationally elite researchers from academia, government labs and industry have joined corporate partners in the form of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC). A new wind tunnel unlike any other and a four story, 200,000-square-foot facility of labs, classrooms and offi ce space have just opened. Highly motivated students are drawn to solving difficult problems with the potential for global impact.

“Wind energy is extremely relevant and good for the planet, and at UT Dallas, the world is open to you in terms of opportunities,” said Jeanie Aird, a senior whose wind energy research experiences helped her earn recognition from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program in 2017, and who was first author of a study in Wind Engineering Journal published in December.

From left to right senior Jeanie Aird, Dr. Stefano Leonardi, doctoral student Umberto Ciri and Dr. Mario Rotea study a wind model.

Aird is currently conducting wind research in two different areas. One project is a fluid mechanics-based model of ocean climate interaction with off shore wind farms under
the direction of Dr. Stefano Leonardi, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and the other is an aerodynamic flow control model of different wind turbine blades to mitigate aeromechanical fatigue loads under the direction of Dr. Mario Rotea, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and holder of the Erik Jonsson Chair.

Umberto Ciri is pursuing his doctoral study at UT Dallas aft er spending time here as a visiting scholar from Italy. Since joining the PhD program, he and his professors have published three journal papers on wind farm power optimization – control algorithms that change the operation of individual wind turbines so that the total wind farm production is maximized. The articles were published in Wind Energy and Renewable Energy.

“Wind energy is a very important topic in terms of theoretical aspects and basic engineering practice, so it is personally gratifying,” Ciri said. “But since wind is a renewable source of energy with several environmental benefits, our work is also of great practical importance.”

Dr. Valerio Iungo teaches an audience about the Boundary Layer and Subsonic Wind Tunnel that he designed. Winds can reach up to 70 mph and up to 100 mph in the two test sections.

The wind energy group at UT Dallas is primarily housed in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In addition to Drs. Leonardi and Rotea, the group includes Dr. Todd Griffith, an associate professor who was recruited from Sandia National Laboratories and was a technical lead for Sandia’s Off shore Wind Energy Program; Dr. Valerio Iungo, an assistant professor who was recruited from Switzerland; Dr. Yaoyu Li, a professor who has extensive industrial partnerships; and Dr. Jie Zhang, an assistant professor who was recruited from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Organizations including the Department of Energy, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the NSF, Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) have funded their research.

Iungo, Leonardi, Li and Rotea all currently have or have had projects in WindSTAR, the NSF IUCRC for Wind-energy Science, Technology and Research with the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Since its creation in 2014, WindSTAR activities in the Jonsson School have included two dozen industry-driven research projects such as advanced control systems for wind turbines and wind farms, and diagnostic tools for wind farms using high-fi delity simulations of power production and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) measurements.

Dr. Hongbing Lu, holder of the Louis A. Beecherl Jr. Chair, and Dr. Dong Qian, both professors of mechanical engineering, have recently joined the WindSTAR team with projects that seek to evaluate durability and new materials for wind turbine blades and towers.

Wind Tunnel Image

During the summer of 2018, the University opened a $5 million wind tunnel known as BLAST: Boundary Layer and Subsonic Wind Tunnel. BLAST, designed by Iungo, has two test sections: a boundary layer section in which winds can reach up to 70 mph and a subsonic section in which winds can reach up to 100 mph, similar to mid-size hurricane winds. The new Engineering and Computer Science West Building that houses the Department of Mechanical Engineering opened shortly aft er. It has a high bay area to test and evaluate very large structures such as wind turbine blades.

“Our program covers a wide range of topics of direct impact to the wind power industry,” Rotea said. “From wind resource characterization to turbine technology to wind farm performance to grid integration.

“Our tailwinds have picked up, and Texas in particular leads the country with installed wind power capacity and number of turbines.”

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