Outcomes of the DOE Workshop on Atmospheric Challenges for the Wind Energy Industry

Sue Ellen Haupt, Larry Berg, Amy DeCastro, David Gagne, P. Jimenez, Timothy Juliano, Branko Kosovic, Eliot Quon, Will Shaw, Matthew Churchfield, Caroline Draxl, Patrick Hawbecker, Alexandra Jonko, Colleen Kaul, Jeffrey Mirocha, Raj Rai

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The U.S. Department of Energy-funded Mesoscale-to-Microscale Coupling (MMC) project team planned and conducted a virtual Workshop on Atmospheric Challenges for the Wind Energy Industry on October 19 and 20, 2020. The goal of the workshop was to forge a dialog with the community, including industry representatives, on how modeling tools are currently being used, the present active atmospheric modeling research in support of wind energy, and required advancements in capabilities and technology to continue to advance wind energy deployment. The workshop was planned in collaboration with an industry advisory panel that included representatives from wind power plant developers, turbine manufacturers, and companies that provide resource assessment and forecasting services. The format of the workshop included panels from government research sponsors, visionaries from industry, and mixed panels of researchers discussing research status and needs. A shared keynote presentation from the Technical University of Denmark experts anchored the second day of the workshop. An emphasis was placed on understanding the research needs in the offshore environment. In addition, breakout opportunities were provided each day. On the first day, the breakout discussions addressed predesigned questions configured to elicit participants’ thoughts on needed research directions. The second-day breakouts treated three important technical topics through a combination of presentations and group conversations. Each workshop participant chose their breakout preference from among downscaling details, modeling for turbines, and using artificial intelligence for atmospheric modeling. The discussions were robust and productive. The outcomes of the workshop include archiving a series of recommendations from industry and the research community on research directions required to further advance wind energy deployment. Discussions confirmed the need for high-fidelity modeling but that there are specific areas of applicability and other areas where the time and cost of computation is prohibitive. In those cases, the high-fidelity models can inform low-order models that are more practical for real-time or widely deployed applications. Industry must consider the financial cost of performing more expensive modeling approaches, but industry engineers and researchers are using these approaches where there appears to be a return on investment. An emerging type of low-order model is based on machine learning (ML). Participants confirmed that there are many atmospheric phenomena that need to be modeled better, including low-level jets, cold air outbreaks, land-sea induced circulations, diurnal variability, thin stable boundary layers, dynamic changes such as from frontal passage, interaction of wakes and blockage, and more. For the offshore environment, there is wide agreement that some level of ocean-wave-atmospheric coupling is necessary to capture variations in rotor-level winds needed to plan and operate offshore wind plants. Another recurring recommendation is that more observations are needed, particularly for the offshore environment. Those observations should consider the needs for model improvement, both for physically based models and for ML models. Observations must capture atmospheric profiles of variables that are important to understanding and modeling atmospheric and oceanic phenomena that impact boundary layer winds. Models must be validated with data and the uncertainty quantified, particularly those that are sensitive to initial and boundary conditions. Finally, a repeated request was to consider the holistic needs of hybrid plants of wind, solar, and storage resources because those types of plants are likely to be the wave of the future. In addition, industry wishes to understand impacts of the resource under a changing climate for long-term planning. PDFs of the presentations and videos of many of them are archived at https://ral.ucar.edu/events/2020/atmo.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages37
StatePublished - 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-78533

Other Report Number

  • PNNL-30828


  • A2e
  • AI
  • artificial intelligence
  • atmosphere to electrons
  • atmospheric challenges
  • atmospheric modeling
  • atmospheric processes
  • boundary layer
  • GPU
  • graphical processing unit
  • high performance computing
  • HPC
  • large-eddy-simulation
  • machine learning
  • mesoscale
  • mesoscale to microscale
  • microscale
  • MMC
  • offshore wind


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