Throughout history, the U.S. wind energy industry has been a beacon of innovation. As early as 5000 B.C., Egyptians used wind energy to propel boats along the Nile River. Now, we have high-tech wind turbines that power households, schools, farms, and even entire communities. The Wind Energy Technologies Office continues to advance the wind energy industry through research and innovation by investing in a new research program to promote high-impact new research ideas from the national labs, while allowing for a higher degree of risk.

WETO recently announced $1.65 million for a wind R&D Incubator program for DOE national laboratories to explore new innovative ideas and research concepts. WETO is funding 18 projects at between $75,000 and $150,000 each in the topic areas of Data Synthesis/Artificial Intelligence; Novel Wind Energy Architectures, Approaches, and Components R&D, Systems Integration, and an open topic area that can advance the wind energy industry across all application areas. Projects are beginning work in October 2023.

The WETO Incubator:

  • Establishes a wind-specific seed funding mechanism for laboratory researchers to expand the scope of WETO investments, and open new pathways to achieving program goals.
  • Allows a higher degree of risk and agility in managing the research.
  • Provides exposure and experience for early career researchers.
  • Enables WETO to evaluate the viability of many different projects and research ideas, including low technology readiness level concepts, without having to prejudge the merit. The selected projects in the four topic areas include:

Data Synthesis/Artificial Intelligence

Multimodal Large Language Models to Enable Novel Insights and Adoption of Wind Energy ($150,000): This project, led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), will build models to efficiently utilize complex data from extensive siting resources. The new developed models will provide better understanding of environmental permitting and siting of wind turbines and operation of wind farms.

Enabling Adaptive Sensing of Wind Velocities in the Rotor Layer from Doppler Lidar Using Edge Computing ($150,000): This project, led by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and PNNL, will develop a system to monitor wind speeds near the rotor and perform scans in turbulent conditions. The project aims to provide real-time assessments of horizontal wind speeds near the rotor and improve wind measurements when it is cloudy.

Machine/Reinforcement Learning to Teach Coordinated Controllers How to Reduce Wake Losses ($150,000): This project, led by Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), will form promising approaches using artificially intelligent systems to implement wake steering more effectively. This technology will help wind farm operators understand how to prevent significant energy loss due to wake effects.

Codesign and Intelligent Approaches for Cost-Effective Operation and Maintenance of Generators and Power Converters ($75,000): This project, led by NREL, will address generator and power converter system failures by developing models that consider the interaction between the two components during the main failure modes and provide solutions to minimize failure rate and probability.

Multi-Scale, Multi-Disciplinary, and Multi-Agent Explainable Artificial Intelligence with Koopman-Undergirded Learning, Prediction, and Analysis ($75,000): This project, led by PNNL, will develop a data-driven modeling approach for offshore wind farms that incorporates a comprehensive, knowledge-based approach to data analysis. The model will serve as explainable AI tools for wind farm simulations and analysis—enabling the characterizing of fault propagation, improving control policies, and quantifying system resilience.

Novel Architectures, Approaches, Components

Floating Downwind Turbines: A Conceptual System-Level Design and Feasibility Study for U.S. Waters ($150,000): This project, led by NREL, will explore a system-level design of downwind floating offshore wind turbines (D-FOWT) for U.S. offshore wind conditions. The D-FOWT improves the power performance of the turbine by tilting the rotor, and reduces yaw activity via weathervaning (the process of when a floating structure passively varies its heading in response to time-varying environmental actions). The project aims to showcase the potential of D-FOWT for domestic waters.

Smart Self-Healing Concrete for Floating Offshore Wind Substructures ($75,000): This project, led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, aims to address the crucial issue of structural integrity and resiliency in submerged concrete floating offshore wind turbine platforms exposed to aggressive marine conditions, through an innovative approach to autonomous health monitoring and healing.

Enabling Larger Rotors Through Modular, Customizable, Inflatable Blades ($75,000): This project, led by NREL, aims to improve the manufacturing of wind turbine blades by combining a currently deployed, inflatable airbeam technology (a composite fabric inflatable tube) for the primary structure with a new, patented, semirigid inflatable technology for the aerodynamic shell. The goal is to show that airbeam technology can provide the same structural properties as conventional blades while providing additional benefits and reducing mass.

Evaluation of Alternative Glass Fiber Formulations for Edgewise Reinforcement of Large Rotors ($75,000): This project, led by Sandia and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will perform sensitivity analyses on the unknown fatigue performance properties of alternative glass fiber material systems via simulation to determine their effect on wind blade design and the opportunity to reduce cost and mass.

Novel Blade Root Attachment and Pitch Bearing System ($75,000): This project, led by Sandia and NREL, will analyze an alternative blade root connection that will help reduce structural loads of the wind turbine. The project aims to improve reliability and safety for future turbines.

Enhancing Test Scale Mooring Systems for Deep Water Floating Offshore Wind Systems Using Active Hybrid Modeling ($75,000): Currently, scaled testing of floating offshore wind turbines  using existing wave basins cannot fully represent the total mooring line length needed for U.S. deep water sites in the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. This project, led by Sandia, will assess whether active hybrid modeling of mooring systems is a viable solution by creating and evaluating a computer-simulated model of an active hybrid mooring system.

Advanced Blade Tip and Root Sculpting for 5% Power Increase with Negligible Change in Bending Moment ($75,000): This project, led by Sandia and NREL, will use advanced blade design tools to design unique blade and root geometries (the section that attaches to rotor hub). The goal is to create a 3–5% power increase while limiting the bending of wind turbine blades for modern onshore and offshore turbines.

Airborne Wind Energy Testbed ($75,000): This project, led by Sandia and Idaho National Laboratory, aims to explore the potential of airborne wind energy systems in the United States. Industry leaders will assess the potential of this technology, provide guidance on performance and certification standards, consider various U.S. sites for their potential as a test facility, and determine its viability for future commercialization.

Hybrid Carbon-Glass Pultruded Wind Turbine Blade Spars to Reduce Cost, Embodied Energy, and Alleviate Foreign Carbon Fiber Supply Chain Demand ($75,000): This project, led by ORNL, studies the use of composite materials in wind blade spar cap assembly designs. The project aims to reduce carbon fiber usage in large wind turbines by up to 40%. 

Systems Integration

Co-Simulation Study and Control of a Wind Farm for Conversion Services ($75,000): This project, led by NREL and PNNL, will develop a high-fidelity modeling platform to study and evaluate control strategies for coupling wind plants to hydrogen electrolyzers. The high-fidelity representation of a wind farm is key to understanding how control systems impact both wind farm and hydrogen output, and can inform future technology development.

Electro-Thermo-Mechanical Study on Submarine Dynamic Power Cables (SDPC) for Offshore Wind Transmission ($75,000): SDPCs have been identified as one of the technical gaps for U.S. floating offshore wind development. This project, led by ORNL, will use a simulation process to analyze power cables and investigate ways to enhance performance and address technical gaps. The project will enable cable engineers to optimize the design for high-reliability performance and reduce costs in floating offshore wind development.

Open Topic Area

VitriEdge–Repairable & Durable Vitrimer Coatings for Wind Turbine Blade Leading Edges ($75,000): This project, led by ORNL, focuses on applying a healable coating to the leading edge of wind turbine blades to repair damage and extend blade lifetime. The effort will explore both the adhesive and healing characteristics of vitrimers to determine their applicability and potential for mitigating leading edge erosion.

Automating In-Situ Grinding and Repair for Thermoplastic Blades ($75,000): Thermoplastic resins under heat make wind turbine blades more malleable, which makes them easier to manufacture and recycle. However, surface grinding for repairs becomes challenging due to the unwanted heat buildup from the materials. This project, led by NREL, uses robotic grinding to optimize the grinding process, which causes heat to dissipate, enabling efficient repair of thermoplastic material.

The purpose of Incubators is to support discovery-stage research and produce finite deliverables quickly, within a 9–12 month period. Due to the nature of this type of R&D, WETO anticipates that some projects may not have promising findings that require additional work, or may result in discrete deliverables that serve as the end of the project. This allows researchers an opportunity to transition to new ideas that may lead to promising results. By funding many small projects, both new and established lab researchers can evaluate emerging research ideas, and WETO can evaluate the viability of many different projects without having to prejudge the most successful or beneficial idea, while potentially opening new pathways to achieving program goals.

To learn more about WETO funded projects, please visit our R&D page.

 Continue to follow WETO for the latest news, events, and updates.