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Distributed Wind Research

NREL's distributed and small wind research reduces installed costs, increases the number of small wind turbines on the market through certification evaluation, and improves wind turbine and power plant performance.

Small wind turbine above football field with players on the field and lights on the sidelines.

The U.S. Department of Energy's case studies and distributed wind photo gallery illustrate the variety of distribute wind energy projects and opportunities to use power generated onsite.

Capabilities

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

A photo of seven wind turbines on a hillside in the distance with long, green grass in the foreground.

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.

A photo of a young man standing in front of several wind turbines.

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).

An illustration of the contiguous United States with varying colors showing the amount of wind resources available at 30 meters.

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 on the WINDExchange website 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 distributed wind systems.

A photo of five men inside a large room analyzing a wind turbine gearbox mechanism.

Technology Development

NREL supports the continued market expansion of distributed wind by engaging in partnerships with manufacturers to evaluate existing hardware and improve designs, enabling industry to refine prototype systems that lead to commercialization. NREL integrates new designs, materials, and processes into manufacturing through its leadership in and technical support for the Competitiveness Improvement Project. NREL also conducts certification and pre-commercial validation of distributed wind turbines though turbine and component research.

A photo of the inside of a wind turbine manufacturing facility in which several large, circular components are visible.

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.

A photo of several two-story houses with trees and a wind turbine in the background.

Siting Considerations and Environmental Impacts

NREL offers several distributed wind resources for communities on the WINDExchange website, including a slide show summarizing key elements in distributed wind siting and permitting, the Small Wind Guidebook, and wind speed maps created for small and distributed wind.

A photo of three wind turbines in a field of long, brown grass with a school building in the background.

Stakeholder Engagement and Education

Through WINDExchange, NREL partners with the Distributed Wind Energy Association on stakeholder engagement, workforce development, and education issues related to distributed wind. NREL runs the U.S. Department of Energy Wind for Schools program, which provides science, technology, engineering, and math academic development using wind energy for students from secondary school to college through the installation of small wind turbines at schools.

Learn more about distributed wind turbine research.

Contact Us

Distributed Wind Lead

The lead for distributed wind energy research at NREL focuses on a variety of areas pertinent to the diverse distributed wind industry, including modeling and simulation, siting, resource characterization, and technology development.

Photo of Ian Baring-Gould

Ian Baring-Gould

Manager, Technology Deployment