The Leading Edge: February 2021 Wind Energy Newsletter

In this edition of The Leading Edge, offshore wind plugs energy into homes and businesses back on shore, WISDEM gets a user-friendly upgrade, and NREL invites U.S. wind manufacturers to partner on distributed wind technologies.

News Stories

Offshore Wind Plugs Energy into Homes and Businesses Back on Shore

Offshore wind turbines have the potential to provide abundant clean energy to heavily populated coastal cities and the larger national grid. But first, the power they generate must be transmitted across miles of ocean waters and coastline, using systems that were not designed to be used this way.

Building on its success with integration—from its world-renowned work on utility-scale renewable energy systems to its comprehensive vision for offshore wind development and collaboration with industry partners—the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is launching new strategies to plug offshore installations into the grid.

Spar cable cutaway
Transmission of offshore wind energy relies on equipment such as this undersea cable to transmit power back to the mainland. Illustration by Joshua Bauer, NREL

Moving Beyond Conventional WISDEM: Open-Source Software Upgrades User Experience

Recently upgraded to enhance usability, the Wind Plant Integrated Systems Design and Engineering Model (WISDEM©) software creates a virtual, vertically integrated wind power plant from components to operation.

Developed by NREL, WISDEM couples engineering and cost modeling to capture important system interactions to help engineers improve system-level performance and reduce costs.

NREL Invites U.S. Manufacturers To Partner on Distributed Wind Technology Innovation

NREL has issued a request for proposals for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Competitiveness Improvement Project for distributed wind. The application deadline is Feb. 26, 2021.

Managed by NREL on behalf of DOE's Wind Energy Technologies Office, the Competitiveness Improvement Project helps U.S. manufacturers of small- and medium-sized wind turbines and components optimize their designs, develop advanced manufacturing processes, and perform turbine certification validation. The program's goals are to make wind energy cost-competitive with other distributed generation technologies and increase the number of wind turbine designs certified to national standards.

On the Radar

Hybrid Energy Systems of the Future

Please join us Thursday, Mar. 11, from 9 to 10:15 a.m. MT for the next webinar in the Wind Energy Science Leadership Series. The Hybrid Energy Systems of the Future webinar will discuss the design and control of the wind energy systems of the future ranging from utility-scale wind plants and state-of-the-art wind-based hybrid plants to the control of these variable resources along with millions of devices across vehicles, buildings, and distributed solar.

Visit the Wind Energy Science Leadership Series to learn more about the event and to register.

WINDExchange Video Guides Resource Map Users

A new video tutorial developed by NREL explains how to read, access, and understand DOE's WINDExchange wind resource maps. Depicting available wind resources based on validated data specific to different regions in the United States, the maps help users understand wind energy potential. NREL manages WINDExchange on behalf of DOE.

North American Wind Energy Academy/WindTech Conference Issues Call for Abstracts

The North American Wind Energy Academy (NAWEA)/WindTech 2021 Conference, scheduled for Sept. 22–24 at the University of Delaware, has issued a call for speaker abstracts. All abstracts must be submitted by April 16, 2021.

The conference will explore two themes: grid integration and the social/environmental science of wind energy development. NAWEA—which grants researchers, educators, and industry members the opportunity to advance collaborative wind energy research—is developing the conference in partnership with the University of Delaware's Center for Research in Wind.

Downwind: In Case You Missed It

NREL Support Helps Natural Power Launch Bat Curtailment Technology

Natural Power has launched its Detection and Active Response Curtailment (DARC) smart curtailment technology to reduce bat collisions with wind turbines.

The system launch follows a 2019 proof-of-concept deployment supported by DOE and NREL, during which Natural Power worked with Alliant Energy to install and operate the system at English Farms, a wind power plant in Iowa.

The system works by installing an acoustic monitor on top of a wind turbine's nacelle that "listens" for bat calls and, if it detects activity, sends a signal to the DARC server, where it is processed along with other supervisory control and data acquisition signals to determine whether the wind turbine should shut down.

Wildlife Detection System Validated at Flatirons Campus Takes Flight

Denver CBS4 reports that the IdentiFlight system, which was validated at NREL's Flatirons Campus, has helped reduce eagle collisions with wind turbines by 82%. IdentiFlight uses artificial intelligence to identify certain birds as raptors approaching the wind turbines and then decides which turbines need to slow down and by how much.


2019 Cost of Wind Energy Review

In December, NREL released the ninth annual Cost of Wind Energy Review, which details the continued downward trend of wind energy costs—56% for land-based wind and 68% for fixed-bottom offshore wind since 2010. This is the first time the report has included costs for residential and commercial distributed wind energy.

An Investigation into the Potential for Wind Turbines To Cause Barotrauma in Bats

Recent NREL research in Plos One examines the potential for air pressure variations caused by rotating turbine blades to injure or cause bat fatalities at wind power plants. Combining analyses of bat physiology and simulations of the aerodynamics of operating wind turbines, the paper concludes that barotrauma is unlikely to be responsible for a significant number of turbine-related bat fatalities. Such research is critical for developing strategies to reduce impacts to bats at wind energy facilities.

Mountain Waves Can Impact Wind Power Generation

Research published in Wind Energy Science studies the effect of mountain waves on wind power generation in the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest. Researchers from NREL, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other organizations conclude that mountain waves can impact wind turbine and wind farm power output and, therefore, should be considered in the design, building, and forecasting for wind farms.

Observations and Simulations of a Wind Farm Modifying a Thunderstorm Outflow Boundary

Following a June 2019 thunderstorm near Lubbock, Texas, radar observations showed that the storm’s outflow—or rain-cooled air radiating outward from the storm—experienced a notable reduction in ground-relative velocity after interacting with a wind farm. Detailing this case study in Wind Energy Science, NREL and University of Colorado researchers showed that weather simulations can capture the features of this deceleration. Further, they showed with simulations that the presence of the wind farm did not impact the precipitation of the storm system.

Wind Turbine Blade Material in the United States: Quantities, Costs, and End-of-Life Options

NREL researchers published an article in Resources, Conservation, and Recycling that examines wind turbine waste, recyclability, and reuse. Study authors project wind turbine waste in each state by 2050 and compare these amounts to estimates of remaining landfill capacity by state, determining that cumulative blade waste by 2050 will require approximately 1% of remaining U.S. landfill capacity by volume. Aside from identifying motivations for circular economy, authors explore alternative methods for recycling and repurposing wind turbine blades.