A new paper led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) highlights three scientific challenges that must be addressed in order for wind power technology to reach its full potential.
The article, published in the journal Science, argues that continued innovation is needed to realize the potential of wind to serve global demand for clean energy. Specifically, the paper lists three “interdependent, cross-disciplinary grand challenges” in the science of wind energy:
- Deeper understanding of the physics of atmospheric flow in the critical zone of plant operation.
- Aerodynamics, structural dynamics and offshore wind hydrodynamics of wind turbines.
- Optimization and control of wind plants working synergistically within the power system.
To remain “economically attractive,” says NREL, the cost of wind energy must continue to decrease. In addition, as the deployment of variable output wind generation increases, new challenges surface related to the adequacy of generation capacity on a long-term basis and short-term balancing of grid systems – both of which are critical to maintaining future grid-system stability and reliability, the national lab says.
All three challenges build on each other, NREL notes, and stem from “complex and highly coupled phenomena that cross many physical and temporal scales relevant to wind energy and the broader power system.” Though advances in individual scientific disciplines (see figure below) will continue to be “tremendously important,” the authors argue that cross-disciplinary work is also paramount.
The paper was published online on Oct. 10. It can be read here.