Atmospheric Science

NREL's technical experts are improving weather prediction models and resource assessments to expand the horizon for wind energy development.

Wind turbines in front of snowy mountain.

Physical processes in the atmosphere, such as wind and water, have been studied for thousands of years. These atmospheric processes create and control the fuel that drives energy demand as well as several renewable energy technologies—including wind. NREL researchers study the atmosphere to assess and measure the nation's land-based and offshore wind resources. By developing remote-sensing technologies, turbulence-resolving atmospheric simulations, wind maps, and validation techniques, NREL supports a thriving domestic wind energy industry.

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See a summary slide deck of NREL's wind-energy-related atmospheric science capabilities, research, and projects. Explore more below.

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Resource, Site Characterization, and Forecasting

NREL scientists are leading efforts in numerical weather prediction for renewable energy, resource assessments, remote sensing, and forecasting that are essential for wind and solar energy development.

Areas of Expertise

  • Wind resource assessments
  • Mesoscale numerical weather predictions
  • Turbulence-resolving atmospheric simulations
  • Remote-sensing technologies
  • Machine learning

Oceanographic and Meteorological Processes

NREL's understanding of the marine environment helps improve offshore wind energy forecast models. Our team offers expertise in marine and atmospheric measurements, wind resource assessments offshore, and extrapolation of low-level winds to hub height.

Areas of Expertise

  • Numerical modeling
  • Offshore measurements and remote sensing
  • Wind resource assessments
  • Marine and hydrokinetic atlas (wave and tidal data sets)

Global Weather, Mesoscale, and Power Plant-Level Effects

NREL researchers simulate a wide range of atmospheric conditions and scales to improve our understanding of air flow through wind power plants. This research leads to new designs and operational strategies that reduce the cost of wind energy.

Areas of Expertise

  • Numerical weather prediction modeling for global and mesoscales
  • Large-eddy simulations for microscale effects
  • Flow modeling for wind power plant performance and controls

Maps and Visualizations

NREL's maps and data visualizations illustrate large and complex data sets to communicate the technological capabilities of the laboratory.​ Our team specializes in turning data into stories, helping partners determine the wind resource potential for a specific site, analyzing data, and more.​

Areas of Expertise

  • Developing maps, models, applications, and visualizations
  • Supporting wind energy planning and production