UCLA to build turbine lab

UCLA is preparing to build a new wind turbine research facility in downtown Los Angeles as part of an ongoing push toward sustainable energy.

The lab is the only one of its kind in Southern California. It will focus on developing stronger and more aerodynamic turbine blades.

“The building already exists and has been selected,” said Richard Wirz, director of the UCLA wind energy lab and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Now, they just need to build the lab space, he said.

Wirz said that the project is still in the planning phase and that work on converting the facility into a laboratory has not started yet.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power projects it to open in 2010, Wirz said.

The building will be part of a green research center that anchors the north end of Los Angeles’ CleanTech corridor, a four-mile swath of industrial land west of the Los Angeles River and east of downtown.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power owns the land that this center will be built on, but under the recently announced CleanTech Los Angeles partnership, researchers from UCLA, USC and Caltech will come together to work on a number of green projects in the center.

The focus for UCLA research will be on wind turbines, which make electricity by capturing wind energy and converting that to electricity. One of the problems with wind power is that it is an intermittent power source, Wirz said. The blades of a wind turbine are optimized for a certain wind speed, and so if it gets too strong or too weak the turbine will not work nearly as well, he added.

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