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