As one of the region's leading wind energy research institution, NAU has engaged in many research projects on wind and solar integration, resource assessment, and optimization in partnership with government and industry partners. In addition, NAU played a lead role in a number of wind-focused outreach initiatives, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s WindPowering America (now Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach) program.

U.S. Department of Energy Wind Vision report

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy began a project to update its successful 2008 wind vision report entitled “20% Wind Energy by 2030.” NAU’s Dr. Tom Acker contributed to authoring the updated wind vision report in the transmission and integration chapter, summarizing wind integration best practices and state-of-the-art techniques for grid integration studies.  The report is due to be completed in the next year.

Residential-scale wind resource modeling

An NAU doctoral student is using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to predict annual energy output from distributed wind turbines, and using this data to calculate the net present value and simple payback period for savings for the turbine user.  The goal of this research is to determine if state-of-the-art methods of wind flow modeling can adequately predict wind speed data and characteristics necessary to perform a reliable and accurate economic valuation of wind energy production from a residential-scale wind turbine. This research will be focusing on the use of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) software to model wind flow for residential-scale wind power. The results will be validated by data taken from existing meteorological tower. This research will translate the output of the modeling into input for economic and policy decision. An economic model will be developed that explicitly shows the dependency of net present value and simple payback period on tower height, and their sensitivity to errors in wind speed. The results of the modeling and the economic model will help turbine’s prospective owner make an informed decision. The results will also help policy maker determine regulation for the installation of a wind turbine in residential zones, which will give optimum benefits to the prospective owner.

APS wind project

NAU researchers are evaluating the value and potential of distributed wind energy for residential use, using the Flagstaff area as a case study for Arizona Public Service Company, an Arizona utility. The project has three tasks: assess the existing homeowner valuation process for distributed residential wind energy; improve the methods of homeowner valuation of residential wind energy; and modeling wind energy potential for distributed, small wind turbine installations. Results of the study will be used to inform decisions on the use of distributed wind energy at Arizona Public Service Company. 

SRP Wind/Solar Integration

NAU researchers worked with EnerNex and General Electric on a wind and solar integration study for the Salt River Project, an Arizona utility provider. The goal of the project was to develop planning estimates for the integration costs of increasing levels of wind and solar on SRP's system. NAU researchers are developing wind and solar production time series data for use in modeling the system with these higher levels of renewables. Results of the study will be used to inform system planning decision makers at Salter River Project.

NextEra: Wind and Solar Integration and Transmission optimization

NAU researchers are using existing wind data and data collection from the Solar Resource Assessment project to characterize the wind and solar resource in the region, including the quality, variability and potential complementary nature of the resources. This information will be used to determine whether an interconnection to transmission can be optimized for utility-scale wind-and-solar co-location systems. 

Cherenkov Telescope

NAU was contracted to assess the wind resource for the potential Cherenkov Telescope Array installation in Northern Arizona. This project, along with others like it, utilize NAU capacity to measure the wind resource for research or commercial projects unrelated to wind energy development.

Wind Turbine Control Systems

Researchers are exploring the development of a power-plant-level coordinated wind turbine control system that could respond dynamically to information from changes at other turbines. Better management of each turbine's operation through plant-wide data collection and analysis can improve electricity generation and quality control, potentially supporting the development of plant-level ancillary services. 

Additional Wind Resources