Upon my arrival, I participated with an Orientation for this REU. Through this relationship, I found a network of resources including fellow visiting researchers, an ID card, and a great mentor who helps me with administrative issues. Then, I met the scientists that I collaborate with on my research project. These mentors include the director of the lab and local professors. These mentors have been essential in bringing me up to speed on the technology behind wind energy, which is not studied at my College. Thanks to their generous help, my research can really thrive.
I work at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, which is an astounding facility. It is located where the Mississippi River runs through downtown Minneapolis. While the urban skyline is beautiful, it pales in comparison to the natural scenery. The lab is located below a magnificent 50-foot waterfall and it is next to roaring rapids; this river dramatically demonstrates the power of fluids. This lab was built below a waterfall so that gravity could be harnessed in bringing the water from above the falls to the experimental facilities within below the falls. As a fluid mechanics laboratory, it uses a lot of water.
Originally, I planned on studying both wave and wind energy. The wave energy experiments, however, are not fully available now; for wave energy is a new research area with a lot of technical issues. Consequentially, I will focus solely upon wind energy. I will specifically study the structure of the wakes that are cast behind wind turbines. As wind moves past a turbine, it becomes slower and more turbulent. If this wake runs across a nearby turbine it will interfere with the turbine’s productivity and longevity. One cannot, however, merely distance turbines far away from each other, because that would increase land, installation, and maintenance costs. Researchers must discover how to balance out these costs and benefits. So, in order to eventually provide insights in designing more efficient wind farms, I will research the structure of a turbine’s wake.