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Researchers Philipp Beiter and Eric Lantz from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), together with collaborators from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy, elicited opinions from more than 140 of the world’s leading experts about their expectations of future wind plant design in 2035.
 
The researchers find that experts expect the height of wind turbines to increase even greater than previously forecast, with plants located increasingly in less favourable wind and siting regions.
 
Taller turbines, and their accompanying larger rotor diameters, allow for the capture of more energy. In the most-likely scenario, the experts predicted that hub height for newly installed onshore wind turbines will reach 130 meters in 2035, rather than the 115-meter forecast offered in a 2015 survey.
 
Experts expect plant sizes of 1,100MW for fixed-bottom and 600MW for floating offshore wind. These and many other design choices can support levelised cost of energy reductions of 27% (onshore) and 17%–35% (floating and fixed-bottom offshore) by 2035 compared to today. New plant designs can also enhance wind energy’s grid service, for example, via project hybridization with batteries and hydrogen production.
 
The authors identify economic mechanisms that drive these design changes, including economies of scale from larger turbines, larger plant size, and greater siting flexibility. In essence, these mechanisms drive design choices because the value from reduced costs or higher energy production exceed the incremental expense to obtain them.
 
The expert survey was made possible through an international research partnership under the auspices of the International Energy Agency Wind Technology Collaboration Programme. The Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office funded the research.
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