Chamorro aims to improve the power grid, wind energy systems

Chamorro, front, with his Renewable Energy and Turbulent Environment Group.
Chamorro, front, with his Renewable Energy and Turbulent Environment Group.
Assistant Professor Leonardo Chamorro recently received a National Science Foundation grant for a research proposal in collaboration with ECE Professor Hao Zhu and Professor Sven Schmitz at Penn State.  
Chamorro is leading the research that aims to develop a holistic framework that closes the gap between turbulence and wind farm electric power output, and to integrate this linkage to efficiently and reliably operate power grids.
“Our holistic approach will integrate the physical processes involved in wind energy systems, the power grid, and their interface including: uncertainties in wind power modeling; short-term and hourly-ahead forecasting of power output fluctuations at wind farm scale; and enhancing power grid operations using wind output prediction,” said Chamorro.
With a nationwide goal set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to cut approximately 32 percent of carbon emissions from the power sector by 2030, Chamorro’s proposal is highly relevant.  The research will potentially lead to more efficient wind farm operations that could help cut emissions by replacing less clean energy sources.
“Turbulence plays a dominant role in the fluctuations of wind farm power output. However, controlling turbulence is a challenging task,” he said. “There’s a need to understand turbulence in this context, which is where our work fits in.”
Chamorro is heavily involved in other exciting research as well.  His group, the Renewable Energy and Turbulent Environment Group, conducts research on the role of turbulence in fundamental and applied problems of high interest, including turbulence over large-scale topography, wind and hydrokinetic energy, scalar transport over urban and natural environments, flow in porous media, flow-structure interaction, and instrumentation development for turbulence measurements.  
“We are particularly interested in unraveling the interplay between turbulence and low-order and compact topographic features such as wind farms and hilly terrains, and the associated mixing effects in the atmospheric boundary layer,” Chamorro said. 
Visiting scholar Huiwen Liu and PhD candidate Nicholas Tobin in the wind tunnel in Talbot Lab.
Visiting scholar Huiwen Liu and PhD candidate Nicholas Tobin in the wind tunnel in Talbot Lab.
The applications of this work are numerous. 
“From an environmental standpoint, we are trying to quantify the effect of wind farms on large-scale mixing,” he said. “We are also combining the effects of complex topography with wind farms to achieve improved wind farm efficiency.”
The group’s research insight can also be applied to evacuation planning in urban environments. Their understanding of complex topography would help to develop simplified models that could guide fast decision-making. 
“Suppose you have a dangerous substance unleashed into a city atmosphere,” Chamorro said.  “You don’t have time to do complex simulations in order to predict what will happen and what the best course of action is. We are working on ways to provide quick feedback regarding a safe and immediate course of action for evacuating people from the city. The key is to uncover dominant turbulence dynamics modulated by large-scale topography.”
Chamorro said he is proud of his group and, particularly, its role in the new NSF proposal. “It’s very exciting to be the lead on this project.” he said.