New paper: "Expert perspectives on the wind plant of the future"

One of the value propositions that startups in wind energy often use is “future proofing”, or helping their customers get ready for the next big thing.

The question is, what are those things likely to be, and how can you convince an investor that you’ve really seen the future accurately?

For an answer, check out this paper by authors from NREL, LBNL, and the US DOE[1]. Although it’s a US author team they’ve interviewed experts globally and the results make interesting reading - and could go a long way to providing investors with confidence.

Short version of the state of the art in 2035:

  • Continuing reductions in LCOE, strongest in floating offshore, then fixed-bottom, and lastly onshore
  • Mean wind speed at development sites will drop slightly
  • Increase in plant sizes onshore and offshore
  • Some geographic trends about turbine sizes and rated power
  • Onshore turbines will likely be in the 5-6 MW scale
  • Offshore has less constraints on turbine size, and we should expect 200-m rotor diameter, 20-MW+ turbines

“Experts’ expectations of the key characteristics of the wind plant of the future. Note: Attributes shown represent the median-scenario expert prediction. Only those attributes are shown here that were elicited in the expert survey and can easily be visualized. Others are discussed in text or amended in the discussion below from a literature review. Plant size was only elicited for offshore applications”. Figure reproduced from Beiter et al. (2022) under the CC BY 4.0 license.

What do you think?

  1. Beiter et al. (2022). Beiter, P, Rand, JT, Seel, J, Lantz, E, Gilman, P, Wiser, R. Expert perspectives on the wind plant of the future. Wind Energy. 2022; 25( 8): 1363- 1378. doi:10.1002/we.2735 ↩︎

Some of my notes on the paper:

  • There could be unexplored synergies between competitors of adjacent wind farms during operations. Knives out during development, but both power plants access the same resource, at basically the same location …
  • Solar penetration is going to help increase the value of wind energy, especially when the production profiles are well decoupled. See the example of California.
  • Given the incredibly low marginal production cost, it isn’ unlikely that we could see significant more coupling between energy intensive industrial activities with wind plants. You would need to have solve economically the power intermittence problem though.
  • I tend to strongly agree that life extension is going to be an enormous value driver. This is barely an incentive for developer (only as long as it makes a financial model look better). One could make an argument for making plant and turbine design choices that maximize energy production in years 30+.
  • I don’t know enough, but one could take the contrarian view on the turbine size and think that there is going to be a lot of space for small turbines to address different needs …

I completely agree with all of your points, @Gaetano.

It seems like there’s lots of spaces for new businesses as a result. And because some of it will be based on new technologies or new business models - like cooperation between neighbouring wind farms - that’s perfect startup territory!

I am also extremely intrigued by the competitors cooperation idea. To what extent, we should ask around :smile: An operational data escrow service with analytics to maximize output? Win:win situations and ease of contracting should be a priority of lists.