The Leading Edge: February 2023 Wind Energy Newsletter

In this edition, we discuss wind energy in Puerto Rico, certification support, an offshore patent, a tribute to a researcher, and more.

News Stories

NREL Study Shows Wind Energy Can Help Puerto Rico Achieve Its Clean Energy and Grid Reliability Goals

The Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act, passed in 2019, set a goal for the territory to transition away from imported fossil fuels and instead meet its electricity needs with 100% renewable energy by 2050, 60% by 2040, and 40% by 2025. To support that goal, experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) evaluated Puerto Rico's wind energy costs and technical potential (leer en español). Their findings show that wind energy represents a viable, low-cost option for helping Puerto Rico achieve its clean energy and grid reliability goals.

Wind turbines behind a crop field in front of mountains.
Experts from NREL evaluated Puerto Rico’s wind energy costs and technical potential and found that wind energy represents a viable, low-cost option for helping Puerto Rico achieve its clean energy and grid reliability goals. Photo by Tony Martinez Tossas, NREL

Behind the Blades

Remembering Robi Robichaud: Former NREL Wind Energy Colleague Saw the Potential in Everyone

A person's office can say a lot about them. A tidy, uncluttered office implies the inhabitant is well-organized—perhaps meticulous. But instead of saying, "messy," wind energy researcher Robi Robichaud's chock-full office at NREL spoke of potential.

Robi Robichaud
Robi Robichaud worked at NREL for 20 years. Photo from World Resources Institute

Ian Baring-Gould, NREL's distributed wind energy lead, describes Robichaud as "a pack rat, but a pretty organized one who could always find what he wanted." Robichaud worked at NREL for more than two decades. He passed away earlier this year.

Tony Jimenez, who worked with Robichaud on wind energy projects before moving to Accelerated Deployment and Decision Support, remembers Robichaud's office too. "I have two memories of Robichaud that stand out. My favorite is of a work trip Robi and I took to Shenandoah National Park in August 2017 to look for possible distributed wind turbine sites within the park. Robi was great company," Jimenez said. "My other memory is of Robi's office, which was very cluttered—full of reports and books and various pieces of equipment."

In his younger days, Robichaud was an avid cyclist who biked across the United States from coast to coast—not once but three times. He played semiprofessional basketball in Europe. He also taught high school math at schools in England, Luxembourg, India, and the eastern and western United States, and even tutored in his free time later in life.

Robichaud joined NREL's education department in 1999 and later moved into wind energy, working on Federal Emergency Management Program projects, Wind Powering America (now known as WINDExchange), Wind for Schools, and federal Renewable Resource Centers. Robi traveled throughout the United States and internationally, visiting possible wind energy sites and conducting wind energy resource assessments. He hosted wind-energy-focused training sessions for federal energy managers. He also served on the NREL organizing team of four U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon competitions.

"Robi was a very down-to-earth guy who could communicate with anybody, especially people who were different from himself," Baring-Gould said. "He always wore jeans and a rumpled shirt, but that laid-back style didn't stop him from communicating effectively with everyone from military folks and base commanders to students and tour groups."

Baring-Gould remembers Robichaud as the perfect team player who was always willing to help on any kind of project. "He loved being part of a team of people and never missed the opportunity to join colleagues around the table for birthdays and other celebrations," Baring-Gould said. "But his hallmark was finding solutions. He listened to what people said, thought about possible solutions, and talked them through it."

Jochem Weber, NREL's chief water power engineer, has a different perspective of Robichaud's office. "Robi didn't cling to things. Instead, he kept what might seem like useless stuff out of a hopefulness that there would be a use for it in the future," Weber said. "Robi trusted there would be some kind of beautiful use for old things, so he kept them until the occasion came up. He trusted in the value of things and life and people."

Four people wearing hardhats and standing on a dirt road in front of a row of wind turbines.
In September 2012, Robi Robichaud (right) and teammate Bob Springer (left) accompanied Laura Quaha of the Campo Kumeyaay Nation and Melissa Estes with the Campo Environmental Protection Agency during a wind energy site assessment on the Campo Indian Reservation in San Diego County, California. Photo by Alexander Dane, NREL

Weber describes Robichaud as kind, generous, determined, and dedicated to serving people and the renewable energy cause. "Robi was not somebody who would quickly change course because things got hard," he said. "He was very resilient and persistent, with strong, sound values and principles. Challenges always led to good stuff for Robi. He was young in mind and heart and had the versatility, appetite, and courage to try new things."

Robichaud also told stories that, like fairy tales, included a moral at the end. "Whenever he got to the end of a long story, there was always a good lesson," said Suzanne Tegen, who shared an office wall with Robichaud for 8 years and worked with him on wind energy education for students and decision makers. "Robi was very principled and did everything for a reason. I will miss him!"

Robichaud had a reason behind the seeming chaos of his office, which told the story of a man who saw potential in everything and everyone. A man whose colleagues loved him. And a man who will be missed by those who knew him.

On the Radar

Researchers Make Progress in Phase 2 of the Big Adaptive Rotor Project

A collaborative effort between NREL and Sandia National Laboratories, the Big Adaptive Rotor (BAR) project aims to develop technologies for the next generation of land-based wind turbines. Launched in 2018, BAR is now in its second phase, which focuses on maturing technology readiness for large wind turbine designs. BAR researchers have made recent progress, including:

  • Performing simulations to confirm the potential of downwind wind farms in the latest release of AMR-Wind, a tool developed by the NREL-led ExaWind project
  • Working with industry partner Envision Group to offer better load and power predictions, especially for large flexible rotors, by improving the aerodynamic module AeroDyn15 in NREL's OpenFAST tool
  • Completing a risk analysis in preparation for an experiment, in which a General Electric 1.5-megawatt wind turbine at NREL's Flatirons Campus will operate in a downwind configuration to generate a valuable data set.

BAR seeks strong collaborative engagement with industry stakeholders and holds quarterly meetings with an external advisory board formed of industry experts to collect feedback and share results. Most of the findings and numerical models developed under BAR will be transferable to offshore wind energy applications and support President Biden's 2035 offshore wind energy deployment goal.

Two stacked images of wind farm simulations with four marks on each representing wind turbines and multicolored areas around them representing wind flow.
This visualization shows the wind flow going through a row of four wind turbines for upwind rotors with a 4-degree tilt (top) and downwind rotors with a 16-degree tilt (bottom). In downwind, wakes are redirected toward the ground and power increases 11%. BAR researchers are busy assessing the impact of downwind wind farms on annual energy production. Photo by Pietro Bortolotti, NREL

Report To Summarize Workshop on Reducing U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Noise

On Dec. 13–14, 2022, researchers from NREL and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory hosted the U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Noise Reduction Workshop on behalf of DOE's Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) in collaboration with the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 2-day virtual workshop covered foundation types and installation methods followed by noise abatement strategies and monitoring, bringing together 125 industry representatives, subject-matter experts, and regulators to discuss, through written and oral commentary, the barriers to reducing noise during offshore wind farm construction activities. Topics included alternative foundations and installation methods, existing noise abatement technologies, and future research and monitoring needs.

A final report will document these discussions as well as analyses of 13 offshore wind energy construction and operation plans and a compilation of 596 responses to an industry participant questionnaire about future research that was sent out prior to the workshop.

A graphic showing five different types of offshore wind turbine foundations: monopile, gravity-base, jacket, tripod, and mono-bucket.
In the first day of the workshop, wind energy experts reviewed the various types of fixed-bottom offshore wind turbine foundations and the current instillation methods for each to inform the noise reduction discussions that followed. Image by Stein Housner, NREL 

NREL Funding Helps Distributed Wind Turbines Get Certified

A wind turbine in a grassy field with people, vehicles, and equipment at its base.
QED Wind Power’s 20-kilowatt wind turbine model is undergoing certification by the International Code Council’s Small Wind Certification Council wind turbine program. Funding from NREL will cover preliminary certification reviews for manufacturers like QED, helping reduce the barriers to certification and ensuring turbine certification readiness. Photo from QED Wind Power 

Certification is an important step before wide commercial deployment of small- and medium-scale wind turbines that produce distributed wind energy, which is used in homes, schools, farms, and remote communities at or near where it is generated. And yet, the certification process can be complicated and costly for smaller companies. By funding the International Code Council's Small Wind Certification Council to cover the cost of preliminary reviews for certification applicants, NREL just made the process easier. Manufacturers with technology they want to develop and certify are encouraged to learn more.

Downwind: In Case You Missed It

NREL Researchers Publish End-of-Service Wind Energy Project Guide 

A new informational resource for communities to better understand repowering or decommissioning processes for wind turbines and related infrastructure has been added to WETO's WINDExchange website. The online and downloadable Wind Energy End-of-Service Guide, produced by researchers at NREL, provides readers with information about what happens to the more than 70,000 land-based wind turbines currently installed across the United States—with more being deployed to reach state and federal renewable energy goals. That can include partly or fully repowering them to extend their life or decommissioning them (which removes a wind energy project and involves land restoration).

Design for a Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Platform Receives a Patent

To protect floating wind turbines from being battered by ocean waves, NREL's Senu Sirnivas brainstormed with colleagues Rick Damiani and Fabian Wendt and were awarded a patent in October 2022 for their flexible aquatic substructures. The device, known as the Ultraflexible Smart Floating Offshore Wind Turbine, can be manufactured, assembled on site, and precommissioned, then towed to where it needs to be installed. Sirnivas displayed a model of the device in Colorado last summer at the Energy Innovation Summit hosted by DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, where it caught the attention of Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. "She was thrilled with the prospect of an innovative offshore floating wind technology being developed at NREL to help combat climate change," he said.

Send Sirnivas smiling with arms sitting atop the base he developed for a prototype of a floating wind turbine.
Senu Sirnivas displays a three-dimensional-printed base of a platform for a prototype for a floating wind turbine. Sirnivas was awarded a patent for his device, known as the Ultraflexible Smart Floating Offshore Wind Turbine, which can be manufactured and assembled on-site and then towed to its mooring location. Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL

NREL Researcher Inspires Younger Hispanic Generations To Pursue Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Manufacturing

With over a decade of achievements in geospatial data science, Anthony Lopez, a senior researcher at NREL, was named the named the Most Promising Scientist by Great Minds in STEM, a prestigious award that honors the highest-achieving scientists and engineers from the Hispanic community across the United States.

Read more about Lopez in his Behind the Blades feature from October 2021.

NREL Wind Energy Researchers Highlighted in Innovators Book

NREL recently published Clean Energy Innovators: NREL People Working to Change the World, a 202-page publicly accessible book written by NREL's Ernie Tucker, in which "innovators" trace the tale of NREL's people and the technologies along with color photos. These innovators and contributors to the book's publication include wind energy team members at the lab from past and present (in order of appearance): Carol Laurie, Terri Marshburn, Walt Musial, Brian Smith, Sandy Butterfield, Bob Thresher, Sue Hock, Bob Noun, Paul Veers, Katherine Dykes, Ismael Mendoza, Amy Robertson, Jennifer King, Johney Green, Maureen Hand, Pat Moriarty, Riccardo Bracho, Paul Fleming, Ben Kroposki, Daniel Laird, and others.

Bob Thresher, who is an emeritus wind researcher featured prominently in the "Wild West of Wind" chapter, said, "Were it not for the persistence, risk-taking, and imagination of the small teams of renewable energy pioneers profiled in this book, we would not have the low-cost, carbon-free energy technologies ready today to mitigate climate change." Thresher added that these stories need to be passed on to inspire the next generation in their efforts.

Two people laughing while facing each other and holding up a book.
NREL’s Ernie Tucker (right) wrote a book summarizing the lab’s history from the point of view of its pioneers, including Bob Thresher (left), who made strides in wind energy. Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL 

U.S. Department of Energy Announces Collegiate Wind Competition Phase 2 Teams

Two students adjust a model wind turbine.

Thirteen schools have been selected to participate in Phase 2 of the DOE’s 2023 Collegiate Wind Competition, which culminates in seeing how their model wind turbine performs, like the one shown here being tested in a wind tunnel. Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL 

Congratulations to the 13 teams selected to participate in Phase 2 of DOE's 2023 Collegiate Wind Competition! Since 2014, DOE has held the competition to provide college students an opportunity to build the skills and connections that will help them find jobs in the wind and renewable energy industries. Managed by NREL on behalf of WETO, the competition helps college students prepare for jobs in these industries through real-world wind energy technology, project development, and outreach experience.

NREL in the News

NREL Scientists Find More Eureka Moments, Patent Activity Climbs In FY '22, Clean Technica, Feb. 17, 2023

New Power System Cybersecurity Architectures Can Be 'Vaults' Against Insider Attacks, Analysts Say, Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive, Feb. 17, 2023

U.S. to Pour USD 30 Million Into Lowering Costs of Large Wind Turbines, Adnan Memija,, Feb. 13, 2023

We Can Now Recycle the "Non-Recyclable" Blades of Decommissioned Wind Turbines, Oraan Marc, autoevolution, Feb. 11, 2023

U.S. Faces "Many Gaps" in Manufacturing Offshore Wind Farms, Stas Margaronis, American Journal of Transportation, Feb. 7, 2023

Port of Long Beach Plans Offshore Wind Turbine Assembly Terminal, Aileen Cho, Energy News Record California, Jan. 26, 2023

U.S.: Westwood Insight—Pacific Wind: California Dreaming, energy-pedia news, Feb. 2, 2023

New-Look Floating Wind Platform for World's Largest Sector Project Seals 'Detailed Design', Darius Snieckus, Recharge, Feb. 1, 2023

Nucor Targets U.S. East Coast Offshore Wind Energy Build-Out, Robert England, Fastmarkets, Jan. 24, 2023

Bill Would Jumpstart Development of Offshore Wind in Gulf of Maine, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Jan. 24, 2023

Natural Power Accelerates EchoSense Deployment to Protect Bats, Ariana Fine, North American Windpower, Jan. 23, 2023

Gov. Edwards: Louisiana Is 'Poised for Success' With Offshore Wind Energy, Alina Hernandez, Tulane University, Jan. 23, 2023

An illustration of a wind turbine nacelle cut open to show the inner workings.
A new guide developed by NREL researchers for WETO’s WINDExchange website outlines repowering and decommissioning options for wind turbines at the end of their service, including all their parts, shown here. Graphic by Josh Bauer, NREL


Energy Potential

IEA Wind TCP Task 26: Wind Technology, Cost, and Performance Trends for Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the European Union, and the United States 2016-2019, International Energy Agency Wind Technical Report (2023)

Software and Tools

Distributed Wind-Hybrid Microgrids With Autonomous Controls and Forecasting, Applied Energy (2023)

OC6 Phase III Definition Document, NREL Technical Report (2023)

Offshore Wind Energy Forecasting Sensitivity to Sea Surface Temperature Input in the Mid-Atlantic, Wind Energy Science (2023)

Sensitivity Analysis of the Effect of Wind and Wake Characteristics on Wind Turbine Loads in a Small Wind Farm, Wind Energy Science (2023)

Turbulent Entrainment in Finite-Length Wind Farms, Journal of Fluid Mechanics (2023)

Wind Energy End-of-Service Guide, WINDExchange Guide (2023)

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