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Distributed Wind Research

Distributed and small wind research at NREL aims to reduce installed costs so wind can compete in the retail electric market with other forms of distributed generation, increase the number of small wind turbines on the market through certification testing, and improve wind turbine and wind power plant performance.

A photo of a snowy road leading to a single wind turbine surrounded by snow-covered pine trees against blue sky.

Capabilities

NREL's distributed wind research capabilities address design, modeling, simulation, resource characterization, analysis, and manufacturing, among other areas.

A photo of seven wind turbines on a hillside in the distance with long, green grass in the foreground.

Design Methods, Tools, and Standards

NREL researchers have developed numerous freely available computer-aided engineering tools to assist in distributed wind power plant and small wind turbine development. Algorithms and programs exist for simulating, designing, and analyzing the energy performance and loading of many aspects of small and distributed wind, from turbine rotors to turbulence.

A photo of a gearbox being moved by a crane during an installation with the ocean and a marina in the background.

Energy and Economic Analysis

Analysis of distributed wind is currently centered on understanding and characterizing project-level costs as well as market opportunities for distributed wind technologies. It also includes analysis of potential impacts from distributed wind manufacturing and deployment (e.g., jobs and greenhouse gas emissions reductions).

A photo of two men standing in front of graphical analyses and wind maps.

Resource Characterization, Forecasting, and Maps

Wind mapping and validation techniques developed at the National Wind Technology Center in collaboration with U.S. companies have produced high-resolution maps of the United States for large distributed wind turbine applications to provide developers with accurate estimates of the wind resource potential. NREL researchers have produced guidelines on resource assessment for both traditional and building-integrated distributed wind systems.

A photo of five men inside a large room analyzing a wind turbine gearbox mechanism.

Technology Development

NREL supports the continued market expansion of distributed wind by engaging in partnerships with manufacturers to evaluate existing hardware in targeted testing campaigns and improve new designs. These activities enable industry to refine prototype systems that lead to commercialization.

A photo of the inside of a wind turbine manufacturing facility in which several large, circular components are visible.

Manufacturing and Supply Chain

NREL supports industry partnerships and targeted research that integrates new designs, materials, and processes into manufacturing, thus making distributed wind energy and small wind turbines a more affordable source of renewable energy for communities around the country.

A photo of several two-story houses with trees and a wind turbine in the background.

Siting Considerations and Environmental Impacts

NREL offers several distributed wind resources for communities, including a slide show summarizing key elements in distributed wind siting and permitting, the Small Wind Guidebook, and wind speed maps created for small and distributed wind.

A photo of three wind turbines in a field of long, brown grass with a school building in the background.

Workforce Development and Education

NREL partners with the Regional Resource Centers and the Distributed Wind Energy Association on workforce and education issues related to distributed wind. NREL runs the U.S. Department of Energy Wind for Schools program, in which small wind turbines are installed at schools for students from kindergarten through college.

Learn more about distributed wind turbine research.

Contact Us

Distributed Wind Leads

The leads for distributed wind energy research at NREL focus on a variety of areas pertinent to the diverse distributed wind industry, including modeling and simulation, siting, resource characterization, and technology development.

Photo of Ian Baring-Gould

Ian Baring-Gould

Manager, Technology Deployment

Photo of Suzanne Tegen

Suzanne Tegen

Section Manager, Wind and Water Deployment