20 years of wind energy research
Bundling research on wind energy and promoting knowledge transfer between science, industry and politics – this was the goal of the Center for Wind Energy Research ForWind when it was launched in 2004. Nine research groups from the universities of Oldenburg and Hannover joined forces at the time. In 2009, the University of Bremen joined the center. Today, ForWind has around 30 working groups with almost 300 employees at its three locations. They conduct engineering and physical research in all areas of wind energy.
Twenty years after its foundation, ForWind has a firm place in the national and international research landscape. For example, its scientists work in research projects on the large offshore wind farms in the North Sea and participate as experts in numerous expert committees. Together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES), ForWind founded the “Wind Energy Research Alliance” ten years ago. It networks more than 600 scientists working on large-scale projects to address urgent issues in onshore and offshore wind energy – from wind as a resource, to individual wind turbines and their components, to the interaction of turbines in large wind farms and their integration into the energy supply system. To this end, they have access to a research infrastructure with test centers and laboratories that sets standards worldwide.
In addition to numerous research projects, ForWind continuously expanded its infrastructure: In 2012, the foundation stone was laid for the globally unique “Test Center for Support Structures” at the University of Hanover. In the approximately 20-meter-high test hall, ForWind scientists want to simulate conditions on the high seas and test original components of offshore wind turbines. The aim is to extend the service life of wind turbines, reduce production costs and make the support structures even safer. In 2023, the large wave flow channel GWK+ followed in Hanover. Here, the influences of waves and currents on foundations and the seabed of offshore wind turbines can be studied on a large scale.
Since 2010, the scientists in Oldenburg have been using their own mainframe computer, which enables highly complex and precise calculations of the flow around rotor blades and entire wind turbines, as well as the flow within wind farms. The construction of a research laboratory for turbulence and wind energy systems at the University of Oldenburg was completed in 2017. The centerpiece of the new building, which covers 2,300 square meters and cost around 21 million euros, is a turbulent wind tunnel. Its long measuring distance makes it possible to experimentally investigate the interaction of several wind turbines in a network. The measurements help to increase the efficiency of wind farms and to avoid technical as well as financial risks.
A 180-meter-high wind turbine in the Bremen Industrial Park was commissioned by the University of Bremen in 2012. Here, ForWind scientists can conduct research projects on the performance, service life and environmental compatibility of wind turbines. Also in Bremen, a “Laboratory for Large Tooth Measurements” was established, the only one of its kind in Germany, to analyze new and defective gear wheels of wind turbine generators. In this way, the scientists intend to investigate the relationship between the design, manufacture, quality and functional properties of large gears and their effects on wear, service life, damage type and noise development. In 2023, the Krummendeich research wind farm near Cuxhaven was commissioned together with the partners from the Wind Energy Research Association. Here, two commercial wind turbines, a smaller experimental wind turbine and several measuring masts are available for research projects and measurement series.
In addition to high-level wind energy research, ForWind offers education and training for future scientists, engineers as well as specialists and managers and is involved in the field of knowledge transfer. The spectrum ranges from information offers for the interested public to specialist seminars and part-time and undergraduate wind energy courses.