Portable Wind Turbines Tested by U.S. Department of Energy for Disaster Relief and Military Use
The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have shared the Defense and Disaster Deployable Turbine Project (D3T), a project that tests portable, quickly deployable wind turbines that can be used in a wide variety of applications, including for disaster relief and military use.
The U.S. military has already been testing the portable wind turbines for ruggedness, driving a turbine over rock ledges and on rough roads to see how it holds up in extreme conditions.
“What we really wanted to do is prove its ruggedness,” Jake Gentle, a senior power systems engineer for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL), said in a statement. “In a natural disaster situation, you can’t show up with a cardboard box. It’s got to be rugged.”
In a catastrophe, electrical power is crucial. Diesel for generators can be expensive and hard to access in a crisis, so the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Idaho National Laboratory have spent four years exploring wind energy as an alternative.
“It needs to be portable, assemble quickly, and get to work,” said Brent Summerville, a distributed wind energy systems engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “That’s a whole different challenge than the wind energy industry was used to.”
Although solar has been considered, because modular panels are quick and easy to ship and install, they need steady sunlight to supply enough power. With portable, easily deployable wind turbines, wind energy could provide additional renewable energy that could save lives following natural disasters or during conflict.
Creating a wind turbine for these circumstances has been tricky. Traditional wind turbines require poured concrete and cranes to position into place. Sending a turbine made of several different small parts would take longer to assemble. Plus, the towers need to be sturdy and durable.
The project team settled on about a 20-kilowatt wind turbine design, along with solar panels and batteries, that could fit into the 20-foot shipping containers that both the U.S. military and the American Red Cross use for disaster relief. The team has also considered using the shipping containers as the base for the wind turbines.
“Military and disaster relief organizations want something that’s going to work,” Summerville said. “Eventually, if it’s proven to be reliable, airborne wind could be a good fit.”
The D3T team hosted a virtual workshop this past June, for the U.S. military and disaster relief organizations to meet with wind turbine developers and suppliers, and additional tests are already planned for climate monitoring stations and some remote communities in Alaska.