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Today’s energy system planning, investment and research decisions can be informed by anticipating key features of wind farms a decade before they are installed. Philipp Beiter (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) and Eric Lantz (US Department of Energy), along with collaborators from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the U.S. Department of Energy, gathered opinions from over 140 of the most respected experts on their hopes for future wind plant design in 2035.
The researchers have published a new article entitled “Expert Perspectives On the Wind Plant of the Future”, which is available in the journal Wind Energy. They found that experts expect wind turbines to grow even more than previously predicted, with wind turbines being located in less favorable locations and sitting areas.
Higher turbine heights and larger rotor diameters allow for greater energy capture. The most likely scenario was that the hub height of newly installed onshore wind farms will be 130 meters by 2035. This is in contrast to the 115-meter forecast in the 2015 survey. Each survey required experts to project 15 years into the future. The 2015 data provides predictions for 2030.
Experts predict that fixed-bottom plants will produce 1,100 megawatts (MW), and floating offshore wind plants will produce 600 MW. These and other design options discussed in the article could support levelized energy cost reductions by 27% (onshore), and 17%-35% for floating and fixed-bottom offshore, respectively, compared to today. For example, new plant designs can help improve wind energy’s grid service by combining batteries and hydrogen production.
Beiter stated that “our research provides a needed benchmark for representing future winds technologies in power sector model models.” This article fills a critical research gap by explaining the economics of wind energy design choices.
These economic factors are identified by the authors as being able to drive design changes. They include economies of scale due to larger turbines and larger plants, as well as greater flexibility in sizing. These mechanisms are fundamentally responsible for design decisions because they provide greater value than the incremental cost of obtaining them.
Lantz stated that while the mechanisms behind wind plant design are well-established in economic theory, and have been addressed individually, very few studies have looked at them systematically. This is the unique contribution of this study.
An international partnership of researchers under the auspices the International Energy Agency Wind Technology Collaboration Programme made this global expert survey possible. This programme has the mission to promote wind energy research, development and deployment in its member nations.
This research was funded by the Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office.
NREL is the primary U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory for energy efficiency and renewable energy research and development. The Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC manages NREL for the Energy Department.