Michigan Aerospace Corporation, in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) National Wind Technology Center, has been awarded a Department of Energy (DOE) grant for approximately $748K to apply the company’s advanced, laser-based atmospheric measurement technology to wind turbine control. Michigan Aerospace will work with NREL to integrate, test, and optimize Michigan Aerospace’s Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) instrument that measures wind speed/direction, temperature, and density at long distances. By measuring winds and other atmospheric properties well in advance of the turbine and integrating those measurements with the turbine’s control system, stresses on the turbine blades and internal components can be significantly reduced. Ultimately, this work is intended to demonstrate that turbine maintenance and repair costs can be reduced, leading to longer lifetimes and more reliable energy output, while also expanding a turbine’s power curve performance. Additionally, with advanced forecasting of wind speed and direction, it is anticipated that energy capture can be increased by optimal turbine pointing.

“DOE’s investment will help us improve two of the most critical areas in wind energy: reducing maintenance costs and increasing efficiency. The most exciting aspect is that this funding opens the door to improving atmospheric measurements and forecasting not only for turbine control, but onshore and offshore site assessment, operational farms, and grid management,” said Michigan Aerospace CEO Peter Tchoryk.

The company is preparing for high volume manufacturing of this product line through its spin-off, OptoAtmospherics. Scientific, engineering, and manufacturing jobs are expected to result, with demand growing along with the wind energy industry. This technology is also being applied to defense, aviation, and homeland security applications.