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Better data gathering -- Aiding design

The wind energy technology department at Sandia National Laboratories in America has developed a device, the Accurate Time Linked data Acquisition System (ATLAS II), which it says can provide all of the information necessary to understand how well a machine is performing. The technology builds on several years' experience with an earlier Sandia model. ATLAS II is capable of sampling a large number of signals at once to characterise the airflow, operational states, and the structural response of a wind turbine. It is described by Sandia as small and highly reliable, using off-the-shelf components and with the ability to operate continuously. It has lightning protection on all channels. "The system provides us with sufficient data to help us understand how our turbine blade designs perform in real-world conditions, allowing us to improve on the original design and our design codes," says Jose Zayas, the project leader, who has been working on ATLAS II since its inception in 1999.

Last year the ATLAS II team completed a project with GE Energy and the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to monitor the performance of a GE wind turbine and will soon start new monitoring projects with Texas Tech University. The GE Energy/NREL/Sandia collaboration involved testing a 1.5 MW, 80 metre tall turbine with a rotor diameter of 70.6 meters. The turbine was equipped with four ATLAS II units, collecting a total of 67 measurements, including 12 to characterise the airflow, eight to characterise the operational state of the turbine, and 24 to characterise the structural response. The system collected data continuously, 24 hours a day. All data from the different units were merged into a single data stream at the base of the turbine where the ATLAS II software compressed and stored it onto a local computer. During a five-month trial, more than 17,000 data records were collected, providing 285 GB of data.

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