The Leading Edge: May 2021 Wind Energy Newsletter

In this edition of The Leading Edge, a new computational framework models eagle behavior at wind power plants, the national Wind Cybersecurity Consortium debuts, and cross-cutting wind research improves tidal blade design for water power.

News Stories

Novel Computational Framework Seeks Insight into Eagle Flight at Wind Plants

A golden eagle in flight
Eagles can spiral upward several kilometers in the right atmospheric conditions, which is well above even the tallest wind turbine. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

As a highly revered and protected species, golden eagles receive special protections. As such, their presence at or near a wind facility must be carefully considered, presenting challenges that can extend permitting timelines, add unanticipated project costs, and constrain energy output.

To address this, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) scientists—along with fellow researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, Western EcoSystems Inc., and Conservation Science Global Inc.—are developing a state-of-the-art computational framework for modeling golden eagle behavior near wind power plants.

Earth Anticipates a Circular Economy for Energy Materials

One of the three key pillars of NREL's vision for the next decade, the circular economy for energy materials focuses on reducing waste and preserving resources through the design and manufacture of materials and products with reuse, recycling, and upcycling in mind from the start.

A sustainable economy, coupled with the coming energy transformation, requires us to move beyond the historical linear economy of "make-use-dispose" to create a circular economy for energy-relevant and energy-intensive materials, processes, and technologies.

Thinking inside the Blade: NREL Takes Novel Approach to 3D-Printed Water Power Prototypes

Marine energy system developers have a need for more efficient and cost-effective prototyping techniques. As a result, NREL and Montana State University set out to explore the potential for rapid prototyping using additively manufactured composite molds. Taking cues from wind energy, NREL's Manufacturing and Characterization research group is putting a new spin on the creation of 3-D printed, additively manufactured molds for tidal blades.

On the Radar

Collegiate Wind Competition Gears up for 2021 Virtual Event

Join the U.S. Department of Energy's virtual Collegiate Wind Competition (CWC) as multidisciplinary university teams present their past year's work in wind energy. The CWC challenges teams to design and test a model wind turbine, plan and financially analyze a wind plant, and create connections with the wind industry and their local communities. In addition to seeing the student presentations June 2–10, viewers are invited to get to know the 2021 competitors at the virtual industry networking event, take a virtual tour of NREL's Flatirons Campus, and cheer on the 2021 winners at the virtual awards ceremony on Friday, June 11. The schedule is available on the CWC website. Links to the virtual events will be added in the coming weeks.

Downwind: In Case You Missed It

Beyond Technical Potential: The Challenges of Siting Wind in a Low-Carbon Future

Achieving decarbonization goals will require rapid and sustained deployment of wind and solar power. However, the interaction between siting considerations and clean energy development across varying scales is underexplored.

In a recent Wind Energy Science Leadership Series webinar, NREL analysts Anthony Lopez, Trieu Mai, and Eric Lantz go beyond technical potential to examine how siting restrictions could impact our ability to achieve a low-carbon grid.

The group presented on two recent related research efforts that used detailed geospatial and power-sector modeling to shed light on the need for more integrated planning to balance local deployment decisions with decarbonization goals.

Expert Elicitation Survey Predicts 37%–49% Declines in Wind Energy Costs by 2050

Wind energy experts expect future onshore and offshore wind costs to decline 37%–49% by 2050, resulting in costs 50% lower than predicted in 2015 thanks to cost reductions over the past 5 years and expected continued advancements. This cost drop might allow wind to play a larger role in energy supply than previously anticipated.

The video depicts expected wind turbine size increases in 2035 for onshore and offshore wind compared with 2019 medians. Illustration by John Frenzl, NREL


A Proposed Criteria To Identify Wind Turbine Drivetrain Bearing Loads That Induce Roller Slip Based White-Etching Cracks
In this article, researchers propose that inner-raceway, normal-contact load magnitude at the time of roller slip as a probable cause of white-etching cracks in wind turbine gearbox bearings.

Acoustic and Genetic Approaches for Informing Population Status and Trends of Migratory Tree Bats
By exploring the systematic collection of acoustic and genetic data over time for migratory tree-roosting bat species, this research supports an improved understanding of population stability. Although this report focuses on wind energy development and bats, the methods used are broadly applicable and capable of being implemented by other industries, academia, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations.

FAST.Farm User's Guide and Theory Manual
Researchers released a user's guide for FAST.Farm: a midfidelity, multiphysics engineering tool to predict the power performance and structural loads of wind turbines within a wind farm. Applications of FAST.Farm include reducing wind farm underperformance and loads uncertainty, developing wind farm controls to enhance operation, optimizing wind farm siting and topology, and innovating the design of wind turbines for the wind farm environment. The existing implementation of FAST.Farm forms a solid foundation for further development of wind farm dynamics modeling as wind farm physics knowledge grows from future computations and experiments.

Investigation of Main Bearing Operating Conditions in a Three-Point Mount Wind Turbine Drivetrain
Wear-related failures of spherical roller bearings in the main bearing position of three-point mount wind turbines have been higher than expected and can contribute to higher-than-anticipated operation and maintenance costs. In this article, the operational conditions of a main bearing for an instrumented, commercial wind turbine are measured in field operations, finding that axial velocity between raceways represents only a small disturbance to the nominal pure rolling case, and, therefore, the influence on oil film building can be neglected.

Technology Innovation Pathways for Distributed Wind Balance-of-System Cost Reduction
This article provides exploratory analysis to characterize the balance-of-system (BOS) cost reduction opportunities for small, commercial, medium, and large distributed wind systems using the Land-based Balance of System Systems Engineering (LandBOSSE) model. LandBOSSE calculates the capital expenditures associated with installation and the system components (e.g., foundation and electrical infrastructure) other than the rotor, nacelle assembly, and tower. Building on representative costs of distributed wind projects with one to five turbine installations and assessing the sensitivity of individual BOS components on total BOS cost reduction, analysts provide a more qualitative evaluation of prospective technology innovation concepts that may enable realization of those cost reductions for distributed wind systems.

Power Increases Using Wind Direction Spatial Filtering for Wind Farm Control: Evaluation Using FLORIS, Modified for Dynamic Settings
Communication-based spatial filtering—a method that can improve the quality of information used by wind turbine and farm-level controllers—has been shown to improve estimates of wind direction at turbines, but the resulting power potential of the technique in real-time control is underexplored. This article presents a method for combining wake steering with wind direction spatial filtering to address this gap.