Grand Challenges in the Design, Manufacture, and Operation of Future Wind Turbine Systems

Paul Veers, Carlo Bottasso, Lance Manuel, Jonathan Naughton, Lucy Pao, Joshua Paquette, Amy Robertson, Michael Robinson, Shreyas Ananthan, Athanasios Barlas, Alessandro Bianchini, Henrik Bredmose, Sergio Gonzalez Horcas, Jonathan Keller, Helge Madsen, James Manwell, Patrick Moriarty, Stephen Nolet, Jennifer Rinker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Wind energy is foundational for achieving 100 % renewable electricity production and significant innovation is required as the grid expands and accommodates hybrid plant systems, energy-intensive products such as fuels, and a transitioning transportation sector. The sizable investments required for wind power plant development and integration make the financial and operational risks of change very high in all applications, but especially offshore. Dependence on a high level of modeling and simulation accuracy to mitigate risk and ensure operational performance is essential. Therefore, the modeling chain from the large-scale inflow down to the material microstructure, and all the steps in between, needs to predict how the wind turbine system will respond and perform to allow innovative solutions to enter commercial application. Critical unknowns in the design, manufacturing, and operability of future turbine and plant systems are articulated and recommendations for research action are laid out. This article focuses on the many unknowns that affect the ability to push the frontiers in the design of turbine and plant systems. Modern turbine rotors operate through the entire atmospheric boundary layer, outside the bounds of historic design assumptions, which requires reassessing design processes and approaches. Traditional aerodynamics and aeroelastic modeling approaches are pressing against the boundaries of applicability for the size and flexibility of future architectures and flow physics fundamentals. Offshore turbines have additional motion and hydrodynamic load drivers that are formidable modeling challenges requiring innovation. Uncertainty in turbine wakes complicates both structural loading and energy production estimates and requires advances in plant operations and flow control to achieve full energy capture and load alleviation potential. Opportunities in co-design can bring controls upstream into design optimization if captured in design-level models of the physical phenomena. It is a research challenge to integrate improved materials into the manufacture of ever-larger components while maintaining quality and reducing cost. High-performance computing used in high-fidelity, physics-resolving simulations offer opportunities to improve design tools through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Finally, key recommended actions needed to continue the progress of wind energy technology toward even lower cost and greater functionality are summarized.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages102
JournalWind Energy Science Discussions
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

See NREL/JA-4A00-87304 for final paper as published in Wind Energy Science

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-4A00-82157


  • aerodynamics
  • aeroelasticity
  • CFD
  • co-design
  • controls
  • design
  • floating wind turbines
  • high fidelity modeling
  • high performance computing
  • inflow
  • instrumentation
  • manufacturing
  • materials
  • offshore
  • roadmap
  • validation
  • wakes
  • wind energy


Dive into the research topics of 'Grand Challenges in the Design, Manufacture, and Operation of Future Wind Turbine Systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this