New hexagonal wind tunnel could raise the bar on wind farm, turbine design

The University of Western Ontario, led by engineering professor and wind-analysis expert Horia Hangan, has been given the go-ahead to build a $24 million hexagonal wind tunnel, a first-of-its-kind in the world that will allow for the substantially more accurate study of the wind and how it affects wind turbines, buildings, bridges and anything else that’s constantly ravaged by this unpredictable and often devastating force of nature.

Called the WindEEE Dome, it will be a six-sided structure about 40 metres across and its walls and ceiling will house 240 high-power fans. The facility will be able to physically simulate all kinds of winds, from gusts and storm bursts to tornados and hurricanes. It will be unique in the world. Most wind testing tunnels are straight and unidirectional — i.e. a long tunnel with a bunch of fans on one side. The fans in the WindEEE Dome will be reversible and able to change direction, and can be controlled individually — even randomly as part of a program — to recreate natural chaos. Hangan expects to break ground on the project in a year and hopes to have the facility operational in 2011.

Check out my more detailed story in the Toronto Star.