Offshore Wind Research
For more than 8 years, NREL has worked with the U.S. Department of Energy to become an international leader in offshore wind energy research. National Wind Technology Center researchers are perpetually exploring new wind power concepts, materials, and components as well as how those innovations perform and affect the energy system as a whole.
NREL's offshore wind turbine research capabilities focus on critical areas that reflect the long-term needs of the industry and the U.S. Department of Energy, including controls, reliability, modeling and simulation, and testing and certification.
Researchers at the National Wind Technology Center use advanced control methods to design innovative controls for offshore floating wind turbines to maximize energy production, reduce structural loads, limit platform motion, and increase reliability.
NREL's offshore reliability capabilities include drivetrain analysis, data collection and analysis, and testing of a variety of technologies and systems. NREL also collaborates with domestic and international industry and research and development partners to improve offshore reliability.
Design Methods, Tools, and Standards
NREL has developed and maintains a robust open-source modeling tool capable of simulating a wide range of offshore wind systems. NREL researchers are leading international efforts to validate and verify offshore wind computer-aided engineering tools, resulting in widespread accuracy improvement across the industry.
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Energy and Economic Analysis
Offshore wind represents an immense and virtually untapped U.S. renewable power resource. NREL's analysis of offshore wind energy in the United States helps illuminate key industry needs, opportunities, and anticipated impacts—including jobs, reduced marginal electricity prices, lower transmission needs, the ability to hedge against fossil-fuel volatility, and many others.
Technology Testing and Certification
Applying 35 years of wind turbine testing expertise, NREL has developed instrumentation for high-resolution measurements at sea and maintains offshore-trained test engineers and technicians to verify turbine performance and dynamic responses.
Resource Characterization, Forecasting, and Maps
NREL engineers have worked with industry to better understand the uncertainties in the wind resource characterization process and standardize best practices for optimal energy production estimates. National Wind Technology Center scientists and engineers are leading efforts in resource mapping, remote sensor measurement and development, and forecasting that are essential for the development of offshore wind.
Experts conduct in-depth studies of the impacts of and needs for integrating offshore wind into the nation's land-based utility grid. In addition, NREL's controllable grid interface test system can reduce certification testing time and costs while providing system engineers with a better understanding of how wind turbines react to disturbances on the electric power system.
Wind Power Plant Modeling and Simulation
Engineers have developed software with state-of-the-art simulation and analysis capabilities that allows industry stakeholders to perform a wide variety of optimization studies for lowering the cost of energy, including specific modules for modeling offshore plant design and cost.
Offshore technology development is aimed at finding technological solutions to lowering the cost of manufacturing and installing utility-scale wind power plants in U.S. waters. Deployment is facilitated by clarifying functional requirements, loading environments, and permitting criteria with key stakeholders for both fixed-bottom and floating systems.
Manufacturing and Supply Chain
NREL conducts technology characterization assessments for offshore wind manufacturing technologies and trends, deployment barriers, and competitiveness factors that affect the U.S. wind turbine supply chain and technology investment decisions for offshore wind power plants.
Siting Considerations and Environmental Impacts
NREL evaluates energy potential and technical site characteristics for offshore wind development areas as well as siting considerations, such as shipping lanes, marine sanctuaries, and commercial fishing areas. Together with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other partners, NREL researches offshore wind environmental issues.
Workforce Development and Education
NREL performs in-depth analysis on the domestic wind energy workforce and has published numerous reports on jobs and economic development for fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind using the Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) model.
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Offshore Wind Lead
As offshore wind comes closer to deployment around the coastal United States, the research lead at NREL takes on the responsibility of outreach and information dissemination, as well as overseeing research to ensure the future of offshore wind in America.