Big Adaptive Rotor Phase I Final Report

Nick Johnson, Josh Paquette, Pietro Bortolotti, Nicole Mendoza, Mark Bolinger, Ernesto Camarena, Evan Anderson, Brandon Ennis

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The Big Adaptive Rotor (BAR) project was initiate by DOE in 2018 with the goal of identifying novel technologies that can enable large (>100m) blades for low specific power (SP) turbines. Five distinct tasks were completed to achieve this goal: 1. Assess trends, impacts, and value of low-SP turbines, 2. Wind turbine blade cost reduction roadmap study, 3. Research and Development (R&D) opportunity screening, 4. Detailed design and analysis, and 5. Low-cost carbon fiber. These tasks were completed by the national lab team consisting of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). The objective of Task 1 was to assess the historical trends of low-SP of onshore deployments, and to assess the impact and value of low-SP turbines. Analysis under this task showed that there is significant value for low-SP turbines, especially in markets where there is a higher saturation of wind energy on the grid. This has to do with the fact that low-SP turbines have increased capacity factors, and can contribute more reliable energy to the grid, even in lower wind conditions. This bodes well as higher renewable scenarios are likely in the coming years. Task 2 was a detailed analysis on the logistical challenges of deploying very large (>100m) onshore blade. This work was completed by experts at DNV-GL. The report looked at various ways to get around the current transportation constraints which are estimated to be around 75m in length. The report concluded that there are viable solutions to this issue including: segmented blades (which the industry is already pursuing), lighter than air (LTA) transportation, on-site manufacturing, and controlled bending of blades on rail. The final option was recommended for further analysis and study by DOE and the national labs because keeping a single piece blade reduces manufacturing and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. Task 3 focused on identifying novel concepts that are capable of enabling a cost effective 5MW 206m rotor for onshore deployment. The findings from the first two tasks were considered in the analysis, in that the concepts identified must be able to overcome the transportation logistics challenges. Around 20 concepts were identified and evaluated by experts within the industry. Additionally, science and engineering challenges were identified for each concept. Based on these evaluations six concepts were deemed the most impactful and were selected for further analysis in Task 4. The concepts were: highly flexible rail transportable blades, downwind rotors, distributed aerodynamic control (DAC) devices, inflatable blade, bi-wing blade, and 4/5 bladed rotors. Task 4 conducted detailed design, optimization, and analysis on the selected BAR concepts. A modeling gaps analysis was conducted, and modeling improvements were implemented that allowed for the study and design of the novel concepts. The BAR team established a set of baseline designs by which to compare the selected designs through a technoeconomic analysis. It was found that the highly flexible rail transportable blade, the downwind rotor, and the DAC devices have the most promise to deliver the BAR targets. A Phase II for BAR has been proposed to further mature these concepts and address the open science and engineering challenges identified in Task 3. Task 5 conducted research on optimized carbon fiber materials that were used throughout the BAR Phase I project. Overall, the BAR project has identified low-SP turbines as important to continued LCOE reductions for onshore turbines. Furthermore, the project has identified viable solutions to the technical and logistical challenges to realizing these goals. The most promising technologies that were identified in Phase I of the project will be further matured and de-risked in Phase II of the BAR project.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages93
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-79855


  • Big Adaptive Rotor
  • capacity factor
  • design
  • energy
  • transportation
  • turbine
  • wind


Dive into the research topics of 'Big Adaptive Rotor Phase I Final Report'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this