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Seismic Shakedown: Wind Turbine
Survives Strong Simulated Jolts

Photo of wind turbine
An 80-foot wind turbine survived strong simulated jolts at the UCSD Englekirk Structural Engineering Center, home of the largest outdoor shake table in the world.

An 80-foot tall wind turbine swayed and violently shook, but it was still standing after it was subjected to a simulated 7.0 magnitude earthquake. The structure was put through a series of tests by engineers at the UCSD Englekirk Structural Engineering Center, which has the largest outdoor shake table in the world, and is the only facility capable of testing a full scale wind turbine.

The first set of tests was the first time a wind turbine was tested on a shake table with the blades in operation. During the second round of testing - which included simulated magnitudes of greater than 7.0 - the turbine tower performed well, with minor change in its structural properties. The 65-kilowatt turbine, donated by Oak Creek Energy Systems, was built in the 1980s and operated in Tehachapi, Calif. The same materials are used to build modern-day wind turbines, which stand 150 feet tall and higher. Little seismic research has been conducted on wind turbines until now. As wind farms become a growing critical component of the world's "green" power generation, industry leaders and researchers are studying their performance and looking for ways to further enhance their seismic design.

"I expect we're going to see a vast increase in wind farms, which gives even more importance to this work, especially since more turbines will be deployed in areas with seismic activity," said Jacobs School structural engineering professor Ahmed Elgamal, principal investigator for the turbine tests.

The testing was funded by a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

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