Urban wind energy
Wind turbines are designed to convert kinetic energy from the wind into usable electrical energy. If the wind is blowing at a constant speed and direction, it is relatively simple to design machines that maximize this energy conversion. In an urban environment, buildings, trees and other complex geometries complicate the wind flow significantly, making it highly unsteady, with turbulence intensity that can exceed 60%. This makes urban aerodynamics difficult to predict and leaves questions of how to best design a wind turbine for such conditions, or choose an appropriate site location, open ended.
The Araya Lab has access to a unique field station located on the roof of Hess tower in downtown Houston, TX (pictured below). The architecture of this building was designed to support 10 vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) to offset the energy demands of the building. However, despite significant planning, the turbines were abandoned shortly after the building was commissioned because of safety concerns. More information about the field site can be found under the 'resources' tab above. The Hess Tower field station is used to perform in-situ measurements of an urban flow field. In conjunction with previous and ongoing low-speed wind tunnel experiments, we aim to develop more accurate models of urban aerodynamics and push for more reliable urban wind turbine technology. If successful, our efforts will help cities meet growing energy demand in an environmentally sustainable way that compliments other energy resources.