Wind Turbine Test Facility

Wind Turbine Field Test Facility

The Wind Turbine Field Test Facility provides the foundation for basic wind turbine research which can contribute greatly to the small-wind industry.

Both the Whisper 500 and Skystream 3.7 systems, as configured at Penn State’s Sustainability Experience Center, are inherently capable as test platforms for small wind-electric systems. The American Wind Energy Association has identified several areas in which research is necessary to ensure future growth in the small wind industry. The industry has encouraged the U.S. Department of Energy to increase funding for small wind research and development priorities which address the following topics:

  • Performance Predictions: Most states have moved towards performance-based incentives for those who install small wind-electric systems. These incentives necessitate improved tools and techniques geared towards wind resource and turbine performance assessments.
  • Certification and Standards: The Small Wind Certification Council has been put into place in order to provide product certification to manufacturers. The certification process is not mandatory. Current testing practices have not been publicly compared against relevant performance prediction tools.
  • Permitting Technical Assistance: Permitting remains a major barrier to widespread implementation of small wind systems. Zoning ordinances are often developed based on poor information regarding the attributes and impact of small wind. Research which would address sitting and permitting issues such as height restrictions, setbacks, sound, health impacts, wildlife impacts, property values, and visual impacts would allow for more agreeable zoning ordinances.
  • Design Codes: Most of the modern wind turbine design codes may not accurately reflect small wind turbine performance or are too complicated and costly for most manufacturers to apply. Small wind industry leaders recommend that steps be taken to develop improved small wind design codes.
  • Product Improvement: As the cost of solar PV declines, small wind manufacturers must improve their product designs to allow for better product reliability and economics.
  • Military and Foreign Assistance Applications: There is a potential for demand in the areas of military and foreign assistance applications. The industry wants to address the technical and administrative issues preventing significant implementation of small wind systems in these areas.
  • Education: Significant penetration of wind energy requires workforce development initiatives which relate to wind energy technologies.

The major purpose of the Penn State "small-wind" activity is to develop a wind turbine test facility with the capability of performing comprehensive power production and rotor aerodynamics studies on small wind-electric systems.

These systems have been instrumented with high-fidelity power and meteorological data acquisition equipment. In instances where the quantity of data is sufficient, the field test data is analyzed using an industry standard approach, whereby sampled data is averaged, distributed into bins by wind speed, and then ensemble averages of data within each bin are calculated.

Key Faculty: Dennis McLaughlin; Philip Morris; Susan Stewart



The Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering, established in 1961 and the only aerospace engineering department in Pennsylvania, is consistently recognized as one of the top aerospace engineering departments in the nation, and is also an international leader in aerospace education, research, and engagement. Our undergraduate program is ranked 15th and our graduate programs are ranked 15th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, while one in 25 holders of a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering in the U.S. earned it from Penn State. Our students are consistently among the most highly recruited by industry, government, and graduate schools nationwide.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry. Through an innovative curriculum and world-class instruction that reflects current industry practice and embraces future trends, Penn State Aerospace Engineering graduates emerge as broadly educated, technically sound aerospace engineers who will become future leaders in a critical industry

Department of Aerospace Engineering

229 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2569