Darryl James, mechanical engineering professor, speaks to Congressman Lamar Smith about simulating tornadoes for research purposes.

Congressman Lamar Smith toured the National Wind Institute facilities and discussed the research that takes place at the facility at 3 p.m. Friday.

Smith represents the 21st Congressional District and is the chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which oversees a budget of more than $39 billion for programs such as NASA, the Department of Energy and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to his biography website.

Darryl James, a professor of mechanical engineering, showed Smith how the VorTECH simulator helps the wind department better understand tornados.

Smith described how there are three types of tornados and about 92 percent have winds of 150 mph or less.

The VorTECH helps researchers and students simulate and understand the physics behind tornados. James said the VorTECH was completed in 2009 and that it measures 33 feet in diameter and is about 23 feet tall.

“It’s capable of simulating tornados’ winds up to the mid-EF3 range,” James said.

John Schroeder, director of the National Wind Institute, showed Smith the two Ka-band Mobile Doppler Radars.

The field tested mobile Doppler radars that are capable of analyzing flow field disturbances, which affect wind turbine response, estimate available power and track areas of increased turbulence, according to their website.

After the tour Schroeder gave a short speech describing the wind department’s achievements and goals.

“Texas Tech’s wind technology department has been on the forefront for over 40 years,” said Schroeder. “It’s reflected in our graduates.”

In the closing of his speech, Smith said Tech was a premier university in wind technology.

He said Texas has more windmills than any other state and it accounts for more than 10 percent of the electricity produced in the state.

Smith said he was impressed with how the department not only works to mitigate the risks that come with storms, but how it also is harnessing wind for electricity.

“I am going to do my best to promote Texas Tech University for their research in wind technology,” Smith said.

Tech offers a bachelor’s degree in wind energy, as well as the only doctoral degree in wind science and engineering in the nation, according to the website of U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, which would increase support to the National Wind Institute and its researchers.

The bill was introduced into the House during April 2013 and is called the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Reauthorization Act. Its main objective will be to increase research and reduce the damages that come with windstorms, according to Neugebauer’s website.

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