NREL Row 4 Turbines Infrastructure Project Wins ACEC/CO Engineering Excellence
November 8, 2010
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) Row 4 Turbines infrastructure project received a 2011 Engineering Excellence Award in the Energy category from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado (ACEC/CO) during a reception on Nov. 1 in Denver. The project is located at NREL's National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) in Jefferson County, Colo. NWTC researchers collaborate with industry partners to advance wind power technology and accelerate its commercialization.
The RMH Group designed the new Row 4 electrical infrastructure at the site to accommodate testing of utility-scale turbines with a total output of up to 10 megawatts (MW) of power. The new infrastructure had to enable future expansion while simultaneously improving control and enabling excess power to be returned to the grid. The first turbines connected to the new infrastructure—1.5 MW and 2.3 MW—produce a combined output of more than six times the output of the largest turbine previously at the site. The two new turbines have a combined generation time of about 500 MW hours per month during the windy season, which is enough to power approximately 830 homes. Plans are underway to connect a third, 3.0 MW turbine to the infrastructure in the near future.
"The innovative design solutions developed by The RMH Group have resulted in an electrical infrastructure that is robust enough to withstand the rigors of endurance testing while providing the flexibility that NWTC researchers require," said Bill Green, president of RMH. "We are proud to be playing a part in developing future power generation technology in the U.S. and pleased NREL was recognized for their foresight and commitment."
As a research site, the NWTC infrastructure needs to be much more flexible in nature than a traditional wind farm. Most wind farms are very static in their operations; once turbines are installed, few significant operational changes are made to the equipment for years at a time. The experimental nature of the NWTC requires researchers to make regular adjustments to the turbines and to replace them relatively often when new turbines or components need to be tested.
The annual ACEC/CO Engineering Excellence Awards is a competition for the best engineering projects in Colorado. Projects were rated on the basis of uniqueness and innovative applications; future value to the engineering profession and perception by the public; social, economic, and sustainable development considerations; complexity; and successful fulfillment of client/owner’s needs. For each project entry, a 30"x30" photographic display panel was submitted demonstrating the challenges, solutions, and innovative uniqueness of key project elements. (A small representation of the display panel is shown above; a full-scale pdf of the panel is also available.) Excellence Award winners from the state competitions are eligible to have their projects judged in the ACEC national competition in Washington, D.C. in the Spring of 2011.
The Abo Group served as the design team manager, DRG Construction served as the general contractor, and Sturgeon Electric and Electrical Reliability Services served as subcontractors.