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Priority R&D areas in Wind Energy

TPWind has established R&D priorities in order to implement its 2030 vision for the wind energy sector. Four thematic areas have been identified: wind conditions, wind turbine technology, wind energy integration and offshore deployment and operation.

In order to implement the 2030 vision and enable the large-scale deployment of wind energy, the support of stable and well-defined market, policy and regulatory environments are essential. The following areas are considered:

  • Enabling market deployment
  • Cost reduction
  • Adapting policies
  • Optimising administrative procedures
  • Integrating wind into the natural environment
  • Ensuring public support

Wind conditions

Current techniques must be improved so that, given the geographic coordinates of any wind farm (flat terrain, complex terrain or offshore; in a region covered by extensive data sets or largely unknown), predictions with an uncertainty of less than 3% can be made.

Three main research objectives - resource, design conditions and short-term forecasting - are being supported by six research topics, identified by TPWind:

  • Siting of wind turbines in complex terrain and forested areas, in order to accurately calculate the externalwind load acting on a wind turbine, and its lifetime energy production.
  • Improve the understanding of wakes inside and between wind farms, and use this knowledge in the design and financial analysis of offshore wind projects.

The specific objectives are to increase the availability of data sets from large wind farms, improve models to predict the observed power losses from wakes, and evaluate the downwind impacts of large wind farms, especially offshore.

Offshore meteorology to improve the knowledge and understanding of processes in offshore conditions.

This will be used to develop new models and to extend existing ones. This is necessary in order to develop methods for determining the externaldesign conditions, resource assessment, and short-term forecasting.

  • Extreme wind speeds to produce a worldwide extreme wind atlas, including guidelines for the determination of the 50-year extreme wind speed and extreme statistics.
  • Investigate and model the behaviour of the wind profile above 100 m, through models, measurements and theoretical tools describing the wind profile in the entire boundary layer.
  • Short-term forecasting over a timeframe of one or two weeks for wind power prediction and electricity grid management.

Wind turbine technology

The aim is to ensure that by 2030, wind energy will be the most cost-efficient energy source on the market. This can only be achieved by developing technology that enables the European industry to deliver highly cost-efficient wind turbines, and adequate grid infrastructure and changed grid operation procedures.

Research topics are categorised according to the technical disciplines and cross-sector criteria on which the integral design and operation of wind power systems are based. The seven research areas are:

  • The wind turbine as a flow device. With the increasing size and complexity of wind turbines, a full understanding of aerodynamic phenomena is required, including externalconditions, such as the wind speed distribution on the rotor plane, for different wind turbine configurations and sites.
  • The wind turbine as a mechanical structure/material. The goal is to improve the structural integrity of the wind turbine through an improved estimation of design loads, new materials, optimised designs, verification of structural strength, and reliability of components, such as drive trains, blades and the tower.
  • The wind turbine as an electricity plant. This should develop better electrical components, improve the effect of the wind turbine on grid stability and power quality, and minimise the effect of the grid on wind turbine design.
  • The wind turbine as a control system. This will aim to optimise the balance between performance, loading and lifetime. This will be achieved through advanced control strategies, new control devices, sensors and condition monitoring systems.
  • Innovative concepts and integration. This should achieve a step change reduction in the lifetime cost of energy by researching highly innovative wind turbine concepts. With the support of an integrated design approach, this will be made possible through incremental improvements in technology, together with higher risk strategies involving fundamental conceptual changes in wind turbine design.
  • Operation and maintenance strategies. These become more critical with upscaling and offshore deployment of wind power systems. The objective is to optimise O&M strategies in order to increase availability and system reliability.
  • Developing standards for wind turbine design. This is to allow technological development, whilst retaining confidence in the safety and performance of the technology.

Wind energy integration

Large-scale integration of wind power at low integration costs requires research in three main areas:

  • Wind power plant capabilities. The view is to operate wind power plants like conventional power plants as far as possible.

This approach implies fulfilling grid code requirements and providing ancillary services. It requires investigating the wind power plant capabilities, grid code requirements, and possible grid codes harmonisation at EU level.

  • Grid planning and operation. One of the main barriers to the large-scale deployment of wind technology is limited transmission capacity and inefficient grid operation procedures. The grid infrastructure and interconnections should be extended and reinforced through planning and the early identification of bottlenecks at the European level.

A more efficient and reliable utilisation of existing infrastructures is also required. Review of the existing rules and methodologies for determining transmission capacity is needed. Further investigation is required for offshore to assess the necessity of offshore grids.

Dynamic models are needed to assess the influence of wind generation on power system operation, such as a more coordinated supervision scheme, and a better understanding and improved predictability of the state of the power system.

  • Energy and power management. Wind power variability and forecast errors will impact the power system’s short-term reserves. At higher wind power penetration levels, all sources of power system flexibility should be used and new flexibility and reserves sought.

Additional possibilities for flexibility must be explored, by both generation and demand-side management, together with the development of storage. In the context of variable production, variable demand and variable storage capacity, probabilistic decision methods should be promoted.

Also, a more centrally-planned management strategy would mean that available grid capacities could be used more effectively and reinforcements could be planned more efficiently. The emphasis should be put on developing good market solutions for the efficient operation of a power system with large amounts of renewable generation.

Offshore deployment and operations

The objectives are to achieve: coverage of more than 10% of Europe’s electricity demand by offshore wind; offshore generating costs that are competitive with other sources of electricity generation; commercially mature technology for sites with a water depth of up to 50 m; and technology for sites in deeper water, proven through full-scale demonstration.

Five research topics have been prioritised by the European wind energy sector:

  • Sub-structures. These represent a significant proportion of offshore development costs. It is necessary to extend the lifetime of structures, reduce costs, and develop risk-based life cycle approaches for future designs.

Novel sub-structure designs, improved manufacturing processes and materials are critical. In the near term, the major deployment issue is the development of the production facilities and equipment for manufacturing the sub-structures. This will require significant investment in new manufacturing yards and in the associated supply chain.

Further data are needed on the behaviour of existing structures, supporting research into improved design tools and techniques, and better design standards.

  • Assembly, installation and decommissioning. This must solve the challenge of transferring equipment to wind farm sites. Such transfer requires efficient transport links, large drop-off areas and good harbours.

The second challenge of wind turbine installation will require specially designed vessels and equipment. Safe, efficient, and reliable processes must be developed that are easy to replicate.

Finally, techniques should be developed for the dismantling of offshore wind farms and for quantifying the cost of doing so.

  • Electrical infrastructure. The manufacturing and installation of electricity infrastructure represents a significant cost in offshore developments.

The full potential of offshore wind can only be realised through the construction of interconnected offshore grid systems and regulatory regimes that are better able to manage the variability of wind power generation. This will require significant investment in cable equipment and in vessels.

  • Larger turbines. The economics of offshore wind favour large machines. The key factors affecting the deployment of offshore wind are the current shortage of turbines and their reliability.

New designs might be developed that address the challenge of marine conditions, corrosion and reliability issues. The development of testing facilities is a crucial issue.

  • Operations and maintenance (O&M). Strategies that maximise energy production while minimising O&M costs are essential. Better management systems and condition monitoring systems will be required. Effective access systems will be essential for the operation of the offshore facilities and the safety of personnel involved.
  • In addition to the five research topics, there are three common themes that underpin each of these topics and that are critical to delivering an offshore wind industry in Europethat is a world leader. These are:
  • Safety. Safe operation of offshore facilities and the safety of the staff involved are vital. It requires the examination and review of turbine access systems, and escape and casualty rescue.
  • The environment. This covers two main areas:
    • Firstly, the construction of substantial infrastructure in the seas around Europemust be done responsibly with minimal adverse ecological impacts.
    • Secondly, more knowledge about the offshore environment is needed, including collecting and understanding climatic, meteorological, oceanic and geotechnical data.
  • Education is critical for delivering safety. Moreover, more trained people with the necessary skills to develop the industry are needed. These will range from skilled workers needed to manufacture, build and operate the facilities, to graduates that understand the technical, commercial and social context of the industry.
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