The Leading Edge: September 2020 Wind Energy Newsletter

In this edition, we look at a new open-source program for modeling large, flexible turbine blades; provide announcements of interest to manufacturers; and invite students and professionals to learn more about wind power.

News Stories

This video shows how OLAF uses filaments to represent a turbine's wake. OLAF is programmed to generate realistic representations of the wakes of large, flexible turbine blades, providing users an alternative to traditional aerodynamic models. Video by Kelsey Shaler, NREL

New Open-Source Modeling Tool Enables Design of Large, Flexible Wind Turbine Blades

NREL recently released cOnvecting LAgrangian Filaments (OLAF), a new wake module included in NREL's OpenFAST wind turbine simulation tool. Programmed to generate realistic representations of the wakes of large, flexible turbine blades, OLAF can also run on a personal computer. Not only that—but it's also open-source, enabling designers throughout the wind industry to model their own designs more accurately and predictably, refine the software collaboratively, and reduce wind turbine development costs.

NREL Seeks Turbine Manufacturer Partners for Distributed Wind Research

In an effort to advance distributed wind energy innovation, NREL invites manufacturers to express their interest in installing distributed-scale wind turbines as research hardware at NREL's Flatirons Campus, located south of Boulder, Colorado. NREL seeks 100-kW or smaller distributed wind turbines to conduct research focused on the integration of wind energy in grid-connected and microgrid applications.

A field of wind turbines with mountains in the background.
NREL invites manufacturers to express interest in installing small wind turbines at the lab’s Flatirons Campus (shown here) as part of a collaborative effort to improve wind-centered microgrids for distributed energy systems in remote locations. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Collegiate Wind Competition Now Accepting Proposals for 2022 Event

NREL recently issued a request for proposals for colleges and universities interested in participating in the U.S. Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition in the spring of 2022. The competition is designed to prepare college students from a variety of backgrounds for careers in wind energy.

NREL Selects U.S. Manufacturers To Develop Next-Generation Distributed Wind Technologies

NREL has selected seven U.S. manufacturers to receive U.S. Department of Energy Competitiveness Improvement Project awards, which are designed to accelerate deployment of small- and medium-sized wind turbines across the country and lower the cost of energy from distributed wind. NREL manages the program on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy.

On the Radar

Webinar Series Reveals Techniques for Keeping Wildlife Safe

The potential impact on local wildlife is an important consideration when planning and running a wind power plant. NREL and Defenders of Wildlife recently launched Wildlife and Wind Energy: Considerations for Monitoring and Managing Impacts, a series of nine training webinars designed to familiarize attendees with applied techniques for monitoring, permitting, reporting, and researching land-based wind energy and wildlife interactions. Experts from government and nongovernment agencies, private industry, and academia will discuss important background information and address research and regulatory considerations related to wind energy projects—from early planning to full operation.

Photo of a North American grouse.
North American grouse species like this male greater sage grouse present unique challenges for permitting wildlife-responsible wind energy. Photo by LuRay Parker, Wyoming Game and Fish

The next webinar in the series, Grouse – Considerations for Developing Wind Energy in Grouse Habitat, will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 16, at noon Mountain Daylight Time.

Wind Energy Science Leadership Series Moves from Atmospheric Science to Increasing Wind Turbine Rotor Size

Held Aug. 31, the most recent Wind Energy Science Leadership Series webinar, Atmospheric Science for Wind Energy Research, covered current research and industry trends for describing and predicting complex wind dynamics and how weather patterns impact wind power plants.

On Oct. 7, the series will shift its focus to an examination of the growing size of wind turbine rotors, which has contributed to substantial reductions in the cost of wind energy. Led by Big Adaptive Rotor project co-lead Nick Johnson, panelists will discuss trends toward turbines with large rotor sizes and the science, engineering, logistical, and manufacturing challenges that need to be overcome to further drive down wind energy costs. For more details about the series, visit the Wind Energy Science Leadership Series.

Downwind: In Case You Missed It

A New Strategic Vision for Floating Offshore Wind

As reported by, a recent NREL study on floating offshore wind identifies barriers that must be overcome to bring down the overall cost of energy produced and then outlines a vision for an integrated systems approach with the potential to significantly improve the market feasibility of floating offshore wind power plants.

An illustration of three floating offshore wind plants.
NREL researchers have outlined a new vision for lowering the cost of floating offshore wind plants. Classic floating platform concepts that include spar (left), semisubmersible (center), and tension-leg platforms (right) need to be optimized to achieve cost competitiveness. Image by Josh Bauer, NREL


Continued Results from a Field Campaign of Wake Steering Applied at a Commercial Wind Farm – Part 2

This Wind Energy Science journal article presents the second phase of study results from a 16-month field campaign investigating the ability of wake steering to increase the energy production of turbines within a section of a commercial wind farm. In this phase, researchers implemented wake steering on two turbine pairs and compared results with the latest FLOw Redirection and Induction in Steady State (FLORIS) model of wake steering. While results showed an overall energy increase in both pairs when steering is applied and match FLORIS predictions, the presence of a secondary steering phenomenon—the wake of a nonsteered turbine—could be critical for the design of wind farm controls for large arrays.

ORBIT: Offshore Renewables Balance-of-System and Installation Tool

This report describes NREL's newly released model for assessing the balance-of-system costs of an offshore wind power plant. As a medium-fidelity, bottom-up, design trade-off tool that computes balance-of-system costs for a theoretical project, ORBIT can be used to evaluate the impact of technological and process innovations relative to baseline project scenarios.

A Cross-Sectional Aeroelastic Analysis and Structural Optimization Tool for Slender Composite Structures

This Composite Structures journal article presents Structural Optimization and Aeroelastic Analysis (SONATA), a fully open‐source framework for the parametric cross‐sectional analysis and design optimization of slender composite structures such as helicopter or wind turbine blades. Using SONATA, researchers analyzed a fully resolved, highly flexible wind turbine blade and recovered stresses, strains, and deformations from loads derived through coupling with aeroelastic analysis. Results showed that SONATA accurately analyzes and optimizes slender composite structures on a high‐fidelity level that is close to a three‐dimensional finite element model.