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NREL Plays Founding, Developmental Role in Major Wind Journal

July 30, 2014

In the late 1990s, global wind capacity was just under 8,000 megawatts, compared to well over 100 gigawatts today. Back then, although the wind industry was growing, wind scientists and engineers were not well-connected with each other on a global basis. There was a need for an unbiased, scientific, peer-reviewed publication that offered wind professionals the opportunity to publish their work, learn about each other's research, and exchange ideas. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL's) Bob Thresher, and other wind experts in Europe, stepped up to the plate. In the spring of 1998, with Thresher at the helm as Chief Editor, they launched the pilot issue of the journal Wind Energy.

The fledgling issue was composed of four articles: a 20-year review of the evolution of wind turbine design analysis, a wind power meteorology piece on climate and turbulence, a review of the status of rotor aerodynamics, and a discussion of trends in wind turbine generator configurations and systems. The editorial team consisted of Thresher; David Quarton, of Garrad Hassan and Partners in the United Kingdom; Jamie Chapman, of OEM Development in Boston, Massachusetts; Erik Lundtang Petersen, of the Department of Wind Energy and Atmospheric Physics at Risø Laboratory in Denmark; Herman Snel, of Netherlands Energy Research Foundation; and Peter Mitchell, an editor at the publishing company John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

With help from the burgeoning industry and additional NREL assistance, Wind Energy has grown from four issues per year to eight. Thresher, who is now an NREL Wind Energy Research Fellow and a member of the journal's editorial board, says in the beginning he had trouble finding enough material to publish—not so today. The number of articles has grown from about 20 per year to about 100. One of the current co-chief editors, NREL's Scott Schreck, says he and fellow editors review well over 300 submissions per year, rejecting more than 50%. Schreck, a principal engineer at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) at NREL, says the journal soon will be expanding again, to 12 issues per year to accommodate the growing number of articles.

Wind Energy became a catalyst to bring people in the industry together. Thresher says, "It's highly international and has helped readers become aware of research centers everywhere. Once the journal began publishing, wind scientists and engineers began seeking each other out." In one recent example, an organization from Singapore decided it wanted to do more with renewables. Through Wind Energy they found NREL and other institutions with whom they could work.

The journal also gave the industry credibility among a wider energy audience. While those who work in wind would hardly consider the field new, Thresher says it's still regarded as new by others, especially compared with the nuclear and coal industries.

“By publishing new research, the journal shows that the wind industry has a science and engineering base that's state of the art. In fact, it's very much like the aerodynamics industry,” Thresher says.

Paul Veers is chief engineer at the NWTC, and was the Wind Energy Chief Editor for 12 years. He agrees with Thresher and says the journal has been successful because "it filled a gap in high-quality archival journals that are dedicated to, and appreciate the complexity of, wind energy technology."

Many other organizations around the world have played a part in the success of Wind Energy, but NREL's presence has been a constant. Veers estimates that over the last decade and a half, there have been dozens of NREL authors, and the lab has been tapped for reviews perhaps hundreds of times. Currently, Pat Moriarty, a senior engineer at the NWTC, also serves as an editor.

These days, as his NREL colleagues labor to maintain excellence in the journal, Thresher enjoys taking a smaller role as a member of the editorial board. "It's more fun now because the journal's established. I, personally, have less of a time commitment. But going forward, I can still contribute in a small way."

—Kelly Yaker