Wind Energy Research Center Gets NSF Funding

New Center to Train Students, Collaborate with Industry

Wind Energy Center Gets NSF Funds

With funding from the National Science Foundation, UMass Lowell establishes itself as the state’s leader in wind energy research and development.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

A new wind energy research center headed by UMass Lowell recently received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help foster long-term collaborations among industry, academia and government that will make wind energy more cost-effective and develop an innovative and competitive workforce.

The NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) for Wind Energy, Science, Technology and Research (WindSTAR) will train undergraduate and graduate students who will support and eventually spearhead the design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of wind-energy systems. It will also provide a forum in which wind-turbine manufacturers, component and equipment suppliers, service companies and project developers can work together to solve problems that are of mutual concern.

WindSTAR’s research efforts will be led by UMass Lowell’s Center for Wind Energy (formerly the Wind Energy Research Group), in partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas. Other collaborators include Iowa State University, Southern Maine Community College, the Maine Wind Industry Initiative and the KidWind Project.

“With this award from the NSF, UMass Lowell has become the definitive leader for wind energy research here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and has established a national reputation for excellence in the field of wind power,” says Prof. Christopher Niezrecki in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and WindSTAR principal investigator. “Between contributions from NSF, the University and industry members, the investment into this one-of-a-kind national center will be more than $620,000 in the first year.”

A Clean, Sustainable Alternative

Wind power is a clean and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. It is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed and does not emit greenhouse gases during operation. WindSTAR plans to integrate engineering with fundamental research to help make wind-turbine systems more reliable and less expensive to operate. The Center and its partners will focus on key areas such as composite blade manufacturing; foundations, towers and infrastructure; turbine and wind-farm controls; wind resource assessment and atmospheric modeling and analysis; structural health monitoring and non-destructive inspection and testing; energy storage and wind system planning, siting and operations.

Presently, the United States obtains more than 4 percent  of its electricity from wind energy, notes Niezrecki. The Department of Energy has shown that it is entirely possible to double that amount by 2020 and to achieve 20 percent of the nation's electricity from wind. The WindSTAR Center will be an important asset to help achieve these goals.