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Although recent circumstances have introduced an economic pause in some sectors, the U.S. offshore wind industry continues its steady progress toward a robust energy future with several offshore wind projects and related supply-chain investments in various stages of development. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) anticipates this future by focusing its attention on an array of high-priority research and development (R&D) needs, broadly categorized as advanced technology, siting and environmental challenges, and the integration of wind power at scale with the electric grid. WETO’s R&D is typically undertaken in partnership with industry and our National Laboratories and promises benefits, collectively, for all forms of wind, including offshore wind.

The fall issue of our newsletter features selected highlights of recent outcomes from our ongoing and broader R&D portfolio, including:

•   The use of high-performance computing to create ExaWind, a supercharged, open-source suite of physics codes and data libraries that enable researchers to simulate the interactions among the wind resource, turbines, and power plant.

•   Research that analyzed the impact of increases in wind turbine size on grid system value—and concluded that “supersized” turbines (larger than those currently envisioned) could continue to reduce costs and enhance the value of wind energy.

•   Research that yields deeper understanding of wind turbine gearbox failures. Its findings on stresses, materials, and probability of failure modes may help future designs and reduce incidents of unplanned maintenance and costly downtime, reducing operation and maintenance costs.

•   How research teams from Purdue University and the University of Minnesota are addressing certain environmental concerns by examining the vision and hearing physiologies of bald and golden eagles, with an aim to improve deterrents around wind turbines.

•   A multilayered and scaled framework that simulates how wind plants work in their natural environment—a model that is vital to understanding wind plant performance.

And here’s an update to a story we told you about in our Spring 2020 R&D Newsletter: DOE’s upgraded lidar buoys have now been deployed off the California coast in partnership with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). As part of this effort, the buoys are collecting atmospheric, oceanographic, and meteorological data to support potential wind development projects in West Coast areas, where BOEM may develop and lease wind sites.

WETO, in conjunction with the states of New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia, supports the Offshore Wind R&D Consortium. The consortium issued its most recent solicitation on August 4, which includes three rounds reflecting challenge areas designed to develop new solutions that remove barriers and address issues essential for cost reduction, deployment, and industry growth specific to U.S. offshore wind regions. The first two rounds—enabling large-scale turbines and support structure innovation and supply chain—have closed. Submissions for the third round, which focuses on electrical systems and innovation and mitigation of use conflicts, are due October 19.  

As the American Wind Energy Association’s Offshore WINDPOWER 2020 Virtual Summit begins this week (October 13–14), it’s clear that interest in offshore wind in the United States—by all parties, including many states—is burgeoning, with more than 28.5 gigawatts of power in the offshore wind pipeline at the end of 2019. However, even as plans move forward, there are technical challenges that continue to need attention, both offshore and on land.

The stories in this newsletter highlight selected and recent outcomes of WETO’s ongoing R&D portfolio aimed at addressing these challenges. At WETO, we are committed to supporting research that contributes to solutions and enables wind to become an even greater clean-energy reality for generations to come.


Robert C. Marlay, Ph.D., P.E.
Director, Wind Energy Technologies Office

Fall 2020 R&D Newsletter

ExaWind Supercharges Wind Power Plant Simulations on Land and at Sea
Suite of open-source, HPC-powered physics codes allows engineers to do everything but collect their mail inside a virtual wind power plant.
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Wind Turbines with Large Rotors and Tall Towers Provide Double Dividends
Supersized turbines could reduce costs, enhance value of wind energy—and more.
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Zeroing In on the No. 1 Cause of Wind Turbine Gearbox Failures
A deeper understanding of bearing axial cracking enables reliability assessments for individual turbines.
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Exploring Eagle Hearing and Vision Capabilities To Reduce Risk at Wind Farms
University researchers examine eagle physiology to inform and improve eagle deterrents.
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Multiscale Framework Simulates Utility-Scale Wind Power Plant in Its Natural Environment
First-ever simulation could lead to vital understanding of wind power plant performance.
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NREL’s Techno-Economic Models Spotlight the Emerging Offshore Wind Opportunity
New open-source tool helps stakeholders assess U.S. offshore wind power plant balance-of-system costs.
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Technology Changes in U.S. Wind Industry Help Slow the Impacts of Aging on Wind Power Plants
First comprehensive study of the U.S. wind fleet shows that the performance of newer plants declines less with age than older plants.
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ThermalTracker-3D Takes Flight
Testing validates system accuracy, provides comprehensive picture of bird and bat activity.
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Collaboration Bolsters Cybersecurity and Resilience for Distributed Wind
Microgrids, Infrastructure Resilience & Advanced Controls Launchpad project supports distributed wind industry.
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A Gust-o for Training: Distributed Wind for Federal Agencies
New training covers basics and explains how and where systems could be installed.
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