The potential for wind power in the United States and globally is vast. The U.S. wind resource alone could supply more than 7.5 times the nation’s total electricity generation in the year 2016. The nation has already begun to harness this potential. In 2016, new investments in U.S. wind power capacity were estimated at $14.5 billion and wind power supplied more than 5.5% of U.S. electricity generation. Future generations of technologically advanced wind power are anticipated to provide consumers with wind energy at unsubsidized costs competitive with or lower than other new and existing generation resources.
The advancement of scientific knowledge coupled with technology development and innovation underpins the long-term market potential for wind power in the United States and around the globe. An essential element of future wind technology is a move toward highly optimized and integrated plant design and operations that focus on the design and development of the entire wind plant rather than individual wind turbines. The collection of intelligent and novel technologies that comprise this next-generation technology can be characterized as “System Management of Atmospheric Resource through Technology,” or SMART strategies. SMART wind power plants will be designed and operated to achieve enhanced power production, more efficient material use, lower operation and maintenance and servicing costs, lower risks for investors, extended plant life, and an array of grid control and reliability features.
The realization of the SMART wind power plant is projected to result in an unsubsidized cost of energy of $23/megawatt-hour and below, a reduction of 50% or more from current cost levels. Under this scenario, wind energy deployments in the United States could increase to more than 200 gigawatts by 2030 and 500 gigawatts by 2050, supplying respectively 20% and 47% of U.S. electricity with wind. Relative to a business-as-usual scenario, this investment in technology research and innovation could support as much as $150 billion in cumulative electric sector cost savings from 2017 to 2050.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Wind Energy Technologies Office Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) applied research program has been initiated to advance the fundamental science that is necessary to drive innovation and the realization of the SMART wind power plant of the future. The multiple atmospheric and physical processes involved, coupled with the multiple length and time scales, make the wind modeling problem a computational “grand challenge,” requiring the world’s largest computers and advanced computationally efficient algorithms to resolve. The A2e activities are a unique collection of scientific efforts that leverage governmental subject matter and computational science expertise, access to interagency data, and high-performance computing facilities to significantly advance the understanding of the underlying physics of wind power and transform industry wind turbine and plant designs. This report describes the scientific challenges facing wind today and the recent scientific advancements that position the research community to tackle those challenges, as well as the new DOE applied research program A2e that takes an integrated approach to addressing those challenges. It also ties these resulting scientific accomplishments to future technological innovation and quantifies the impact of that collection of innovations on the cost of energy from wind power in 2030.
Illustration: The wind plant of today (top) compared to the SMART wind power plant of tomorrow (bottom). Illustration by Josh Bauer, NREL
Click here to download the PDF file.
Source: U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)