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Stability Wind Tunnel

Stability Wind Tunnel
A thick wind turbine blade section, suitable for the mid to inner portion of a full blade is shown prepared for computer-based flow visualization.

Anchoring a substantial portion of the technical activities in the CREATe group is the Virginia Tech Stability Wind Tunnel. This internationally recognized facility is a major asset to the University and to the Commonwealth of Virginia in many areas of aerodynamic and aeroacoustic testing, but particularly in wind energy. The wind tunnel was built by NASA (then NACA) in 1940 and was brought to Virginia Tech in 1958. It produces an extremely high quality air-flow for testing at speeds of up to 190 mph and is one of the largest university-owned wind tunnels in the US. The wind tunnel is self-supporting, operating as a cost center within the university to serve faculty and graduate researchers, government sponsored projects, industrial customers, and the training of undergraduate students.

The key technical advance that has given this facility international visibility and placed it at the forefront of aeroacoustic and aerodynamic wind energy research is the invention at Virginia Tech in 2005 of the Hybrid Anechoic Test Section (HATS) – a technology in which tensioned Kevlar cloth is used to guide the air flow over models, while allowing the sound produced to pass out of the flow and be accurately measured.

With the HATS, the tunnel acquired internationally unique capabilities and became the largest university owned anechoic wind tunnel in the country. Size matters, as the wind tunnel enables the full scale conditions present in applications to be reproduced much more accurately. Indeed, the Virginia Tech Stability Wind Tunnel is the only accessible facility worldwide where wind turbine blade aeroacoustics and aerodynamics can be measured at, or near, full scale conditions. Since the HATS became operational in 2008, interest in the facility from the wind turbine industry has been growing exponentially. Within the last two years the facility has hosted tests for General Electric, Vestas, Clipper, Gamesa, and LM/RISO. General Electric, in particular, has become a major partner and supporter, investing over $1.8M in wind turbine related work with the wind tunnel since 2009. Not all of this support has been for testing. As part of their USA programs for 2012 and 2013, GE is also investing heavily in facility capabilities.

For more information and scheduling please visit the Virginia Tech Stability Wind Tunnel website.