Opportunities for and Challenges to Further Reductions in the 'Specific Power' Rating of Wind Turbines Installed in the United States

Eric Lantz, Robert Hammond, Mark Bolinger, Ryan Wiser, Ben Hoen, Joseph Rand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus Citations

Abstract

A wind turbine’s “specific power” rating relates its capacity to the swept area of its rotor in terms of Watt per square meter. For a given generator capacity, specific power declines as rotor size increases. In land-rich but capacity-constrained wind power markets, such as the United States, developers have an economic incentive to maximize megawatt-hours per constrained megawatt, and so have favored turbines with ever-lower specific power. To date, this trend toward lower specific power has pushed capacity factors higher while reducing the levelized cost of energy. We employ geospatial levelized cost of energy analysis across the United States to explore whether this trend is likely to continue. We find that under reasonable cost scenarios (i.e. presuming that logistical challenges from very large blades are surmountable), low-specific-power turbines could continue to be in demand going forward. Beyond levelized cost of energy, the boost in market value that low-specific-power turbines provide could become increasingly important as wind penetration grows.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)351-368
Number of pages18
JournalWind Engineering
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-74817

Keywords

  • capacity factor
  • economics
  • geospatial modeling
  • large rotors
  • levelized cost of energy
  • long blades
  • Specific power
  • turbine design

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