The Leading Edge: July 2023 Wind Energy Newsletter

In this edition, NREL shares a new prize to reycle wind turbine materials, a Q&A about wind energy collaboration in an interview with a joint appointee at University of Colorado Boulder, new work on improving models of blade vibration, and more.

News Stories

New NREL-Administered Prize To Help Accelerate U.S. Wind Turbine Materials Recycling

Small pieces of a wind turbine float out and into a recycling symbol. A title at the top of the image reads, “Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize,” and a gear-shaped logo in the bottom-right corner reads, “American-Made Wind Prize, U.S. Department of Energy.”
The Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize is an American-Made Challenges competition designed to develop a sustainable and cost-effective U.S. circular wind energy economy. Image by Joelynn Schroeder, NREL

Designed to help the United States develop a cost-effective and sustainable wind turbine materials recycling industry, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) recently launched the Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize. The competition focuses on two types of materials used in wind turbines: fiber-reinforced composites (carbon fiber and fiberglass) and rare earth elements (including neodymium and dysprosium magnets used in generators). Among the prize goals is the aim to expand the nation’s ongoing efforts to create a sustainable wind energy economy, such as NREL's thermoplastic resin research for wind turbine blades.  

Administered by NREL, the competition has two phases and a $5.1-million prize pool. In the first phase, Initiate!, competitors will present innovative wind turbine materials recycling technologies. Winners of the first phase will be invited to demonstrate prototypes of their technologies in the second phase, Accelerate! For more information about the Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize, register to attend the Aug. 3 webinar to learn how to apply for the first phase of the prize before the Sept. 29, 2023, submission deadline.

Behind the Blades

Waking up to Wake Effects With Cross-Institutional Projects

This month, we interviewed Julie Lundquist about her work with NREL in wind energy and some of her latest research in atmospheric science.

Lundquist is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and has a courtesy appointment in the Department of Applied Mathematics, both at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder). She’s also a fellow in the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (a joint institute between CU Boulder and NREL) and joint appointee at NREL.

How long have you been working with NREL on wind energy research?

My joint appointment at NREL started back in 2010 when I moved back to Colorado from Lawrence Livermore National Lab, but I had been collaborating with NREL staff since 2008.

How does that collaboration work?

As a joint appointee, I am available to NREL when questions come up about atmospheric science and boundary-layer meteorology that go beyond the expertise (or bandwidth) of regular NREL employees. I also help NREL define the projects in a way that incorporates atmospheric science expertise.

NREL often approaches me with novel projects that provide excellent learning opportunities for students, and students (both graduate and undergraduate) approach me asking for applied projects that will have a real impact on expanding our use of renewable energy.

So, your students get to work with both CU Boulder and NREL too?

In that way, I feel somewhat like a matchmaker between projects and students, but of course I'm teaching to ensure that students have the necessary skills. I also appreciate that NREL has been so enthusiastic about working with my students—and then hiring them after graduation!

Because of that, I know my work has a tangible impact in making renewable energy more efficient, more widely used, and more effective. I would like to continue working with NREL throughout my career.

Sounds like you're enjoying the teamwork!

I have been very lucky to work generally with kind and supportive people who are passionate about making the world a better place.

I love my work with NREL scientists and the range of interesting and important projects. NREL people are generally driven but kind, insightful but efficient, and really fun people.

And I love being a professor and working with a range of students, both teaching and doing research. Kim Stanley Robinson wrote that "teaching is the most rigorous form of learning,” which is certainly my experience; I love learning new things, and I love the propulsion of my students’ curiosity and passion for their work that in turn inspires me.

As with most things, diversity of expertise and procedures usually leads to more creative, insightful, and effective solutions, so I am obviously very supportive of collaborations between academia, government, and industry.

Julie Lundquist in glasses and a ponytail at the top of a mountain with blurry trees and sunset in the background.
"As with most things, diversity of expertise and procedures usually leads to more creative, insightful, and effective solutions, so I am obviously very supportive of collaborations between academia, government, and industry," says Julie Lundquist, pictured here at Royal Arch near Boulder, Colorado. Lundquist, a professor at CU Boulder and joint appointee at NREL, works with collaborators and students to better understand atmospheric science challenges of wind energy. Photo from Branko Kosović, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Do you work with any other institutions, then?

I enjoy many fruitful collaborations with wind energy companies, other U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration laboratories here in Colorado and beyond, as well as with international groups.

I’m really excited about several projects with NREL and the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office right now. At the top of my mind is the ongoing American WAKE experimeNt field campaign in Oklahoma, making unprecedented measurement of wind farm wakes so that we can understand the effects of large-scale wind deployment and assess wake interactions between wind farms and how we might manage wakes.

My research group also has some ongoing projects with the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium. My students and I are analyzing the results of year-long simulations we did with NREL and NOWRDC to quantify wake impacts in the U.S. Atlantic Coast region—not just on wind and power production but also on sea surface temperatures and surface heat and momentum fluxes. Another project focuses on large-eddy simulations of hurricanes, but I hope that only weaker hurricanes make it to the region during our measurement campaign!

Are there any downsides to cross-institutional work?

Of course, managing multi-institutional groups can be challenging and time-consuming, considering that institutions have different missions and resources. Once those barriers can be surmounted (or at least recognized and managed), the numerous benefits of collaboration demonstrate the importance of working across our organizations.

For example, the Wind Forecast Improvement Projects (WFIPs) in complex terrain (WFIP2) and now offshore (WFIP3) are great examples of multiple labs, industry, and academia working together very productively to provide new insights into how complex terrain affects wind energy, and I’m eagerly looking forward to what we learn about offshore situations on the U.S. East Coast.

What’s your area of focus in these projects?

The bulk of my research addresses the atmospheric boundary layer here on Earth where most of human activity and terrestrial life unfolds. The boundary layer experiences beautiful complexity in its flows as those flows interact with the surface and the structures, including wind turbines, that we build on the surface. I use both simulations and observations to understand how turbulence is generated and dissipated and how turbines change the winds and turbulence both locally and further downwind (wakes). As wind energy expands, we need to understand wakes and their variability better in order to predict them and manage them so that we can rely on wind despite wakes.

I love solving puzzles, so I also love unraveling how the atmosphere and important and useful structures, like turbines, interact. We get to play with a variety of tools that enable us to develop insight into the beautiful and complex flows in the atmosphere. It’s not just intellectually satisfying, but this work is critical to enable us to make wind plants as effective as possible and thus reduce the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

What do you envision for the future of wind energy?

I hope to see wind energy deployment growing in safe and thoughtful ways so that it provides safe and carbon-neutral energy to provide better quality of life for people around the world as it becomes an important component of our energy portfolio.

On the Radar

NREL Experts Share Expertise at International Wind Energy Meeting in Japan

In May 2023, the International Energy Agency Wind Technology Collaboration Programme (IEA Wind) held its 91st Executive Committee Meeting in Fukuoka, Japan. During the meeting, several NREL researchers shared updates on the international research collaborations they lead. Ian Baring-Gould presented highlights on IEA WInd Task 41, which is dedicated to advancing wind energy technology as a cost-effective and reliable distributed energy resource. Christopher Bay presented on IEA Wind Task 50, which coordinates international research and development in the field of hybrid wind power plants. And Paul Veers presented updates on The Grand Challenges in Wind Energy Science. Read more highlights from the meeting in the IEA Wind ExCo 91 Newsletter.

Improved Computational Modeling Could Reduce Vibration-Caused Damages in Wind Turbine Blades

Wind turbines need wind to generate electricity, but extremely windy conditions can lead to turbine failures. To avoid this, turbine designers need accurate computational predictions of wind-flow-induced vibrations on commercial-scale wind turbine blades. As turbine blades get larger and become highly flexible, the vortices generated behind the blades can also make them vibrate—sometimes enough to cause permanent structural damages. A new journal article from NREL researchers, published in the Journal of Turbulence, addresses fundamental questions regarding the conditions under which such vibrations are generated. Using the NREL-developed ExaWind software stack, the study examines the impact that the thickness of blade sections, commonly known as airfoils, and flow speed have on the magnitude and frequency of the vortices created behind the blades. The findings can help wind energy engineers design turbine blades that are both efficient and durable in extreme operating conditions.

On the left, a computer graphic of a wind turbine is surrounded by swirling arrows and overlain with a graph of a serpentine line. On the right, colors swirl around a petal shape.
Wind downstream of a wind turbine can trigger vibrations in the blades and the tower (the inset graph on the left shows the intensity (amplitude) of the vibrations of the tower). Now, research from NREL has improved understanding of that turbulent airflow (shown as swirling colors in the cross section on the right) so that developers can make improvements in blade designs to prevent vibration-caused damages to wind turbines. Graphics by Shreyas Bidadi, NREL

Downwind: In Case You Missed It

Thirty-Two Teams To Participate in First Round of 2024 Collegiate Wind Competition

DOE has announced 32 colleges and universities selected to participate in the first round of the 2024 Collegiate Wind Competition during the first half of the 2023–2024 school year. The competition, which is funded by WETO and managed by NREL, helps prepare the future wind energy workforce by inviting college students from a range of disciplines to represent their schools as they design, build, and test a prototype wind turbine; develop a site plan and cost-of-energy analysis for a hypothetical wind farm; and conduct outreach with the wind energy industry, their communities, and local media outlets.  

By early 2024, the competition organizers will narrow the competition to, at most, 12 finalist teams, which will be invited to continue to participate in the second half of the school year and present their work at the final event. 

Two students work on a model wind turbine.
Thirty-two teams have been selected to participate in the Collegiate Wind Competition 2024 during the first half of the 2023–2024 school year and compete for a spot at the competition’s final event next spring. Photo by Taylor Mankle, NREL 

Seven Ways Wind Energy Lights a Path to U.S. Energy Independence

While celebrating the nation’s independence this month, WETO’s WINDExchange looked at seven ways wind energy is helping the United States achieve energy independence, many of which are supported by NREL research, including abundant, homegrown land-based and offshore wind resources. U.S. wind energy can power remote locations, stimulate local economies, create jobs, and contribute to a diverse, secure power grid with growing domestic supply chains and technology that enable American-made components and equipment to drive the future of energy.

Blowing In: Upcoming Events, NREL in the News, and Recent Publications

Upcoming Events

Join NREL and WETO researchers at upcoming events, including:

NAWEA/WindTech 2023 Conference: Oct. 30–Nov. 1, 2023, Denver, Colorado

Register now for the North American Wind Energy Academy (NAWEA)/WindTech 2023 Conference at the early-bird rate until July 31, 2023; book your hotel room in the reserved block at the Omni Interlocken Hotel near Denver, Colorado; and sign up for follow-up workshops, side meetings, and the Graduate Student Symposium separately, which are open to the public at no cost. Subscribe to the NAWEA email list for updates.

NREL in the News

Distinguished Researcher Birdie Carpenter Sets Sail After Naval Career, Ernie Tucker, NREL, July 14, 2023

Informing Energy Transitions: The 2023 Electricity Annual Technology Baseline, Brooke Van Zandt, NREL, June 28, 2023

Case Study: Exploring Wind Energy’s Impacts on Wildlife, Staff Writer, WETO, June 26, 2023

US East Coast Floating Wind Farm Offers Springboard for Growth, Nish Amarnath, Reuters, June 21, 2023

Recent Publications

Atmospheric Science

A Numerical Study of an Atomizing Jet in a Resonant Acoustic Field, International Journal of Multiphase Flow (2023)

Holistic Scan Optimization of Nacelle-Mounted Lidars for Inflow and Wake Characterization at the RAAW and AWAKEN Field Campaigns, Journal of Physics: Conference Series (2023)

Investigations of Farm-to-Farm Interactions and Blockage Effects From AWAKEN Using Large-Scale Numerical Simulations, Journal of Physics: Conference Series (2023)

LiDAR Measurements to Investigate Farm-to-Farm Interactions at the AWAKEN Experiment, Journal of Physics: Conference Series (2023)

Long-Term Uncertainty Quantification in WRF-Modeled Offshore Wind Resource off the US Atlantic Coast, Wind Energy Science (2023)

Overview of Recent Observations and Simulations From the American WAKE experimeNt (AWAKEN) Field Campaign, Journal of Physics: Conference Series (2023)

Offshore Wind Energy

A Digital-Twin Solution for Floating Offshore Wind Turbines Validated Using a Full-Scale Prototype, Wind Energy Science (2023)

Considerations for Floating Wind Energy Development in the Gulf of Maine, NREL Technical Report (2023)


Aero-Servo-Elastic Co-Optimization of Large Wind Turbine Blades With Distributed Aerodynamic Control Devices, Wind Energy (2023)

Assessing the Impact of Cybersecurity Attacks on Energy Systems, Applied Energy (2023)

Main Bearing Replacement and Damage − A Field Data Study on 15 Gigawatts of Wind Energy Capacity, NREL Technical Report (2023)

Modeling the Yaw Behavior of Tail Fins for Small Wind Turbines, NREL Technical Report (2023)


Heterothermic Migration Strategies in Flying Vertebrates, Integrative and Comparative Biology (2023)

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