Researchers Philipp Beiter and Eric Lantz from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), together with collaborators from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the US Department of Energy, have elicited opinions from more than 140 of the world’s leading wind energy experts and collated their expectations about wind plant design in 2035.
Their results have been published in an article, ‘Expert perspectives on the wind plant of the future’, which has appeared in the journal Wind Energy. The researchers found that the height of wind turbines is expected to increase even more than previously forecast, with plants increasingly located in regions less favourable for wind energy.
In the ‘most-likely’ scenario, respondents predicted that hub height for newly installed onshore wind turbines will reach 130 metres in 2035, rather than the 115 m forecast by a 2015 survey, which looked 15 years to 2030.
These and other design choices discussed in the article, in plants of 1100 MW for fixed base units and 600 MW in floating arrays, can support levelised cost of energy (LCOE) reductions of 27% (onshore) and 17%–35% (floating and fixed-base offshore) by 2035 compared to today. New plant designs will also enhance wind energy’s grid service, for example, via project hybridisation with batteries and hydrogen production.
The authors identified economic mechanisms that drive these design changes, including economies of scale from larger turbines, larger plant size, and greater siting flexibility. In essence, these mechanisms drive design choices because the value from reduced costs or higher energy production exceed the incremental expense to obtain them.
The global expert survey was made possible through an international research partnership under the auspices of the International Energy Agency Wind Technology Collaboration Programme, and funded by the US Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office.