The energy sector is undergoing a paradigm shift. By 2050, many predictions identify a future electric grid system in which renewables make up a significant share (30% or more) of overall electricity generation. In the fall of 2017, wind energy experts from around the world came together to look at an even grander vision of the future electricity system where wind energy could produce a majority (>50%) of global electricity generation. This “Grand Vision” for wind energy pushes beyond even the most optimistic forecasts; however, to realize this future, significant innovation is needed to reduce the cost of wind energy and increase the value it provides to the electricity system.
Through a series of meetings, wind energy experts identified innovations in several areas: manufacturing and industrialization, turbine technology and design, atmospheric (and metocean for offshore) science and forecasting, plant control and operations, grid integration, and offshore-specific technologies. Innovations in these areas would lead to reductions in wind cost of energy and/or improve the value that wind energy has for the electricity grid in providing more reliable and dispatchable energy, higher capacity value, and improved grid services for greater reliability and stability. The groups then discussed the R&D efforts that would help accelerate and enable the development of these innovations.
This report documented the findings for each innovation area to realize a future electric grid scenario with high shares of wind energy. The authors then synthesized the discussions on R&D challenges into a high-level list of grand R&D challenges by area. Throughout all the research areas, there were common themes that surfaced: leveraging recent advances in data science, digitalization, and associated technologies, and creating multiscale and multidisciplinary modeling capabilities that could fully capture all of the complex coupling and interdependencies both within the wind power plant and the full electric grid system. Exploring these cross-cutting themes revealed a higher-level framework that could be used to coordinate and integrate wind energy research across the different areas to successfully address the grand R&D challenges.
The shear complexity and size of the wind energy science challenge merits such an integrated perspective and approach and emphasizes the need for an integrated wind energy science discipline. Future work, in the form of a follow-on journal article, will articulate more completely the different components of this discipline and discuss how execution of such an integrated research program will overcome the challenges set forth to realize the Grand Vision for Wind Energy. If successful, the resulting innovations can help realize a future electricity system with wind energy as its foundation.