ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Sandia National Laboratories is bringing new technology that controls the weather – in the lab, that is. They’re using wind to work out how to bring renewable energy to rural communities.

“What we’re studying are new configurations of the electric grid that powers our whole country,” said Brian Naughton with Sandia National Laboratories. “What we want to do is understand how those new systems work together.”

They’ve just brought in a custom-built wind turbine emulator. It mimics the actual wind turbines at Sandia’s wind farm site in Lubbock, Texas.

“A key part of that in this transition from large fossil fuel plants to more distributable renewable energies,” said Naughton. “Wind turbines, solar panels, and some of these newer technologies.”

The technology takes those big wind-powered blades and instead, mimics them in a smaller-scale laboratory setting. It helps them study how weather impacts those farms and how they can use it to create new energy.

“We can really replicate any type of grid that might exist in the country,” said Naughton. “We ensure that grid remains reliable, efficient, cost-effective, and resilient.”

Naughton is a wind energy researcher at Sandia. He says this technology and research can help bring renewable energy to some of the state’s rural areas.

“New Mexico, as we know, has abundant wind and solar resources and it’s some of the best in the country,” said Naughton. “There’s a huge opportunity for our own communities to provide some or all of their own power.”

Researchers at Sandia also hope to take these findings beyond the state. They hope to solve some of the most challenging energy issues to hit other parts of the country.

“We are a national laboratory so we’re working with folks across the U.S.,” said Naughton. “[To] try and understand how we design our power system to be more resilient to things like wildfires in California or hurricanes in Puerto Rico.”

Sandia says they’re currently using some of the research findings to try and bring renewable energy to a remote village in Alaska. The new wind turbine emulator is part of a collaboration between Sandia, the Idaho and Pacific Northwest national labs, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.