The Leading Edge: September 2021 Wind Energy Newsletter

In this edition, hear the good news about the state of the U.S. wind energy market and wind turbine acoustics, and meet a National Renewable Energy Laboratory wind energy researcher and editor.

News Stories

NREL Analysts Dive Deep Into Offshore Wind Market, Guide Industry’s Future

At the end of August, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Energy Technologies Office released the 2021 editions of the offshore wind, distributed wind, and land-based wind market reports, intended to inform stakeholders about technology and market trends in wind energy.

The Offshore Wind Energy Market Report: 2021 Edition was written by National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers Walter Musial, Philipp Beiter, Patrick Duffy, Melinda Marquis, Aubryn Cooperman, Rob Hammond, and Matt Shields, along with Paul Spitsen from DOE. In the in-depth report, the team covered the status of offshore wind projects through Dec. 31, 2020, and provided a deeper assessment of domestic offshore wind energy developments and events through May 31, 2021. The information it compiled will help drive NREL's offshore wind energy research and partnerships and guide the industry's continued growth and development in the future.

The Land-Based Wind Report: 2021 Edition was prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Distributed Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition was produced by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Read all reports and explore additional features, such as infographics, interactive graphs, and informative articles about the report findings.

The covers of the market reports

Market reports blow in. NREL researchers wrote the Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition, recently released by the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office, to inform stakeholders about the latest offshore wind energy technology and market trends. Two additional reports cover land-based and distributed wind. Report covers from U.S. Department of Energy

Listen to the Quiet Winds of Change

Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing—and least expensive—renewable energy sources in the United States. But while this growth could decrease carbon emissions, lower energy prices, and create jobs, it could also bring wind plants closer to residential neighborhoods—and bring noise pollution with them.

To collect data on the noise output of wind turbines, NREL wind energy researcher Nicholas Hamilton and his team placed microphones beneath the DOE-owned, General Electric-made 1.5-megawatt wind turbine at NREL's Flatirons Campus. And then they listened.

The results may sound surprising. Acoustic emission models predicted that noise output would increase with wind turbines with yaw offsets, which are designed to increase their power-generating efficiency by allowing a turbine to rotate toward oncoming winds. But the team’s open-source data shows the opposite—that yawed operation reduced wind turbine noise. Not only does this sound like good news for wind power plant neighbors, but the study has also provided important information for improving future models.

A man standing on a wind turbine with a harness and hard hat.

Hearing good news. Using microphones placed beneath a wind turbine on NREL’s Flatirons Campus, NREL wind energy researchers have determined that yawed wind turbines are actually quieter than expected. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Behind the Blades

Meet an NREL Wind Energy Researcher and Editor

Nicholas Hamilton is a researcher in the National Wind Technology Center, where he focuses on wind turbine and wind plant aerodynamics. In his 4 years at NREL, his work has centered around experimental observations in the field using remote sensing instrumentation, optical measurements, and acoustics, as exemplified in a recent news article.

Before joining NREL, Hamilton earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Portland State University, working in a wind tunnel laboratory and building expertise in turbulent fluid mechanics, applied mathematics, and dynamical systems.

When he’s not busy with measurement and simulation data, Hamilton spends his time adventuring outdoors with his family and cooking up a storm (a vestige of his former life as a restauranteur). In the coming years, Hamilton will spend his energy supporting the instrumentation and simulation efforts in the American Wake Experiment and Rotor Aerodynamics, Aeroelastics and Wake experiments with his colleagues in the wind world.

Nicholas Hamilton sitting on a wind turbine in a hard had and Sheri Anstedt smiling at the camera next to a pink flower

Who’s behind the news. Nicholas Hamilton (left) studies wind energy in the field, including wind turbine acoustics. Before NREL researchers like Hamilton publish their cutting-edge research, Sheri Anstedt (right) polishes these publications to perfection. Photos courtesy of Nicholas Hamilton and Sheri Anstedt

After the NREL wind energy team finished developing the Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition, it had to go through one last person: Sheri Anstedt, the lead editor for all NREL wind energy publications. A publications specialist in NREL's Communications Office for over 11 years, she gets to work in her dream job, merging her passion for writing and editing with her passion for the environment.

“I truly enjoy helping researchers get their work published and communicate to the world all the exciting things they (and NREL) are doing,” Anstedt says. “To me, our researchers' success is all of our success, and I take my role in that process seriously.”

When she’s not editing with a mug of masala chai and instrumental electronic music in the background, Anstedt enjoys hiking, biking, reading, and painting. Recently, she’s started beekeeping and has been a Zumba instructor at NREL since she joined the lab.

On the Radar

New Report Helps Communities Plan Wind Energy Projects

DOE's WINDExchange initiative released Land-Based Wind Energy Siting: A Foundational and Technical Resource, written by NREL researchers Corrie Christol and Frank Oteri and former NREL researcher Michael Laurienti with input from many others at DOE and NREL. The report, which focuses on land-based wind energy from the community perspective, examines how communities address a host of issues through ordinances—from limitations on sound to how safety lighting required by the Federal Aviation Administration might impact the nighttime skies and more. This information can help communities define parameters that ensure their wind energy developments are tailored to address specific community needs and concerns.

Wind turbines behind a cornfield.

A welcome site. A new report from DOE’s WINDExchange Initiative provides useful information to support a greater understanding of the siting considerations associated with land-based wind energy projects. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Upcoming Wind Energy Webinars – Critical Partnerships for a Carbon-Free Energy System

Join NREL panelists and session chairs at the plenary session for the North American Wind Energy Academy and WindTech 6-week wind energy webinar series on Sept. 23, 2021. The event will also feature international experts from other national labs, government agencies, private companies, and academic institutions and provide high-level discussion of topics in the wind energy industry, from offshore wind energy to partnership opportunities. Online attendance is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Learn more on the conference website.

Downwind: In Case You Missed It

Offshore Wind Turbines on the Horizon

The Wind Energy Technology Office’s wind energy market reports prompted several news articles about the key findings, including NREL’s own. Vice covered a DOE article about wind turbine sizes covered in the market reports, quoting NREL researcher and report co-author Eric Lantz on the advantages and challenges of increasing wind turbine tower heights. The Guardian’s coverage of the Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition focused on the potential of floating offshore wind energy and quoted NREL researcher Walt Musial about how carefully sited wind turbines would ensure that large-scale offshore wind energy deployment along the east and west coasts would use little ocean real estate. In its brief coverage, focused on the new wind energy capacity that was added in 2020, based on information provided by the NREL-prepared Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition.

Wind Industry Workforce Expansion Efforts Quote NREL

In the Texas Standard, an article reporting on an Austin-based company’s new efforts to train wind industry workers refers to a 2019 NREL report about the gap between wind energy workforce needs and hiring rates. The news article includes a quote from NREL researcher Eric Lantz commenting on the industry’s “unprecedented growth during the past 10 years.”

A vessel floats beside an offshore wind turbine.

Offshore wind grows. Offshore wind turbines, like the one pictured, can take advantage of faster wind speeds than land-based turbines, which translates to more energy generated for densely populated coastal areas. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition, written by experts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, forecasts strong growth for the U.S. offshore wind industry in the future. Photo courtesy of Lyfted Media for Dominion Energy

Floating Wind Energy Developer References NREL in Decision To Expand

Simply Blue, an Ireland-based offshore wind energy developer, has recently announced that it is expanding operations into U.S. waters. The company’s announcement cited Walter Musial's forecast that the floating wind energy market will grow to 30 gigawatts by 2040, with 60% of U.S. wind resources capable of being developed for offshore wind energy. NREL was cited in reference to this announcement by, PR Newswire, and Recharge News.

NREL Prediction Cited in Relation to New Floating Offshore Wind Farm

Floating off the coast of Scotland, the world’s largest offshore wind farm is ready to start generating power. Interesting Engineering reports on the development, citing NREL researcher Walt Musial’s prediction that utility-scale floating wind turbine deployment could occur as soon as 2024.

Recent Publications

Energy Kite Modeling

A cooperative research and development final report by NREL's Jason Jonkman documents the production of a model for fly-gen-type airborne wind energy systems. First, NREL researchers engaged by Google/Makani developed, verified, and documented a multiphysics model of a megawatt-scale “energy kite” tethered to the ground called KiteFAST, including aero-servo-elastic coupling. Then the team developed a software enhancement for the model (KiteFAST-OS) that simulates the aero-hydro-servo-elastic dynamics of the kite when tethered to a floating offshore wind energy platform. This is the first framework capable of modeling the physics of an airborne wind energy system with onboard electricity generation and crosswind flight operation. As a final step, the team verified and demonstrated the functionality of KiteFAST and KiteFAST-OS, merged the two into one (KiteFAST), and released the project openly to the public. Users can find the model beneficial for loads analysis, structural design, and certification of fly-gen-type airborne wind energy systems.

Airborne Wind Energy

Interest and investment in airborne wind energy systems (AWE)—which use tethered flying devices to convert wind energy into electricity—has grown substantially in the last decade, though this technology is still in an early stage of readiness. In this report, NREL researchers describe technical analyses of various aspects of AWE and offer insight into AWE's potential to provide a significant source of energy in the United States. Based on its literature review, internal analysis, domestic and global outreach through a U.S. AWE workshop, numerous industry interviews, and an overall assessment, the research team found that AWE’s resource technical potential is two or more times the total electricity consumption in the United States and could therefore contribute significantly to the U.S. renewable energy supply.