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Offshore Design Tools and Methods

Graphic of a modular depiction of the FAST tool, which includes aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, control and electrical system dynamics, and structural dynamics modules.

NREL's CAE Tool, FAST, and its Sub-Modules

Illustration of wind turbines in various environments including land-based, shallow water (0-30m), transitional depth (30-60m), and deep water floating (greater than 60m).

FAST has the capability of modeling a wide range of offshore wind system configurations including shallow water, transitional depth, and floating systems.

With DOE's support, NREL has developed and maintains a robust, open-source, modular computer-aided engineering (CAE) tool, known as FAST. It has state-of-the-art capabilities for full dynamic system simulation over a range of offshore wind systems. FAST models the coupled aerodynamic, hydrodynamic, control system, and structural response of offshore wind systems to support the development of innovative wind technologies that are reliable and cost effective.

NREL continues to develop and enhance the existing FAST capabilities and improve the dynamics modeling of wind turbines on offshore fixed (shallow water), transitional (capability currently being added), and floating platforms (deep water), thus enabling design innovation and risk reduction, and facilitating higher performance designs that will meet DOE's cost of energy (COE), reliability, and deployment objectives.

Model Verification Effort

FAST has been verified through the International Energy Agency Offshore Codes Comparison Collaborative; a code-to-code verification effort that NREL leads that has examined fixed-bottom, transitional, and floating wind turbines.

NREL, through its domestic and international partnerships with offshore demonstration projects, is now gathering field test data for FAST validation. One such project is the DeepCwind project based out of the University of Maine, which tested three one-fiftieth scale floating wind turbine designs in a wave basin, under combined wind/wave loading, and will soon deploy a one-third scale tension leg platform (TLP) in the open ocean.  The individual components of FAST have been validated, and the coupled dynamics of floating turbines are now being compared to response data from deployed systems.

International Collaborations

Institutions worldwide are deploying demonstration projects, developing simulation tools, and designing innovative floating wind systems. NREL collaborates with international partners to share the latest technical information.  NREL employs its expertise and broad international contacts to address critical needs for the offshore wind industry to develop and improve CAE tools for the assessment of offshore wind turbine systems.

Collaboration Institutions

Risø National Labs (DK)

Principle Power (USA)

University of Maine (USA)



SWAY (Norway)

University of Delaware (USA)

Leibnitz University of Hannover (DE)


Fraunhofer IWES (DE)

University of Stuttgart (DE)

Vestas (DK)



ETH Zurich (Swiss)

Alstom (FR)

For further detail on NREL's CAE tools, see Computer-aided Engineering Tools.