Mammoth European research project -- Scaling up

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The design of much larger wind turbines -- of up to 20 MW for use both on land and offshore -- is the focus of a European wind industry collaborative research project with a budget of over EUR 22 million. Dubbed UpWind, the initiative is the largest ever long term wind research project to receive EU funding. It was launched on April 11 in Brussels.

UpWind aims to explore and resolve design limits for very large turbines to be built after 2010. By developing new efficient turbine design methods the project partners hope to move the sector towards cost parity with the cheapest energy sources. It is a collaboration of some 40 organisations from 12 countries including manufacturers, service providers, universities and research bodies. Surprisingly, wind leader Spain is not included.


The EU is providing EUR 14.3 million of the EUR 22.34 million project cost under its sixth framework research programme (FP6). It is the only large integrated wind project to secure funding under FP6. Even then, support for wind research was very much an afterthought by the European Commission, which only included funds for a single large project after intense lobbying from the wind industry.

Upwind, which is due to run for five years, will focus on understanding external design conditions, innovative materials and advanced control and measuring systems for the complete range of turbine components. It will deal with aerodynamics, aero-elasticity, structural and material design of rotors, critical analysis of drive train components and of support structures for offshore turbines.

"The project is going to be a great challenge," says Peter Hjuler Jensen of Risø National Laboratory, who heads the project. "The work will be divided into 15 work packages, each involving a different aspect of research, and each very complicated, so we had to innovate a lot in the management practices," he adds.

The European Wind Energy Association's Hugo Chandler says: "It is the largest project of its kind and yet it represents just a tiny proportion of the work that has to be done." The industry hopes to see a lot more projects like it under the next round of research funding, FP7, he adds.

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