Science and innovation have helped propel renewable energy into the mainstream, and they will continue to fuel that trend into the future. According to a recent report by the Department of Energy (DOE), science could help dramatically reduce the cost of wind power over the next decade.
In August, the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a report, entitled “Enabling the SMART Wind Power Plant of the Future through Science-Based Innovation.”
The report describes the scientific challenges facing wind power and recent advancements that position the research community to tackle those challenges.
According to the report, the potential for wind power in the United States is vast. Furthermore, the advancement of scientific knowledge coupled with technology development and innovation could help the industry tap into that potential.
Within the industry, the report predicts the move toward highly optimized and integrated plant design and operations. This optimization focuses on the design and development of the entire wind plant rather than on individual wind turbines.
The report refers to this next-generation technology as “System Management of Atmospheric Resource through Technology,” or SMART strategies. SMART wind power plants will be designed and operated to achieve a number of objectives. They include enhanced power production, more efficient material use, lower operation and maintenance and servicing costs, lower risks for investors, extended plant life, and grid control and reliability features.
These objectives will be achieved through various innovative features on these futuristic wind farms, including high-fidelity modeling and state-of-the-art sensors to accurately estimate production, real-time active control of turbines, larger rotors and taller towers to capture higher-potential wind energy in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, and precise forecasting of wind energy production for improved grid operation and planning.
Collectively, these innovations could result in an unsubsidized cost of energy of $23 per megawatt-hour and below by 2030. That would represent a reduction of 50% or more from current cost levels.