Next generation turbine, power-train and system management technology

Why is this gap important?

Large rotor diameters and higher hub heights have higher upfront and per unit power costs but increase production and decrease costs per unit energy while making better use of the resource and decreasing variability of output.

Technology solutions

The scaling of turbine sizes has led the way in reducing the capital costs of wind power plants. Continued turbine scaling, emphasising low material use and more efficient manufacturing processes, remains a key option, with cost reductions estimated at 11‑20% by 2030. As rotors become larger with longer, more flexible blades, a fuller understanding of their behaviour during operation is required to inform new designs. Notable rotor-research areas include advanced computational fluid dynamics models; methods to reduce loads or suppress their transmission to other parts of the turbine, such as the gearbox or tower head; innovative aerofoil design; nanotechnology to reduce icing and dirt build-up; and lower aerodynamic noise emission. Additional cost savings can be achieved through technology developments that reduce electrical losses in the generator and attendant electrical/ electronic components. Enabling technologies include innovative power electronics, use of permanent magnet generators, and super conductor technology

Digitalisation, through advanced sensing and controls, enables predictive maintenance and is already reducing operation and maintenance costs (TRL 9). As turbines reach higher hub heights, it will be necessary to design and operate them under different atmospheric regimes, under conditions that are currently not well understood. More precise understanding and forecasting of weather conditions can be accomplished through high-fidelity modelling, verification and validation. Combined, these measures reduce the uncertainty of annual production and cost estimates, and consequently reduce investment risk and the cost of obtaining financing. Finally, plant lifetimes can be extended from the current 20 years to 30 years by 2030 through the use of advanced controls (TRL 8), reducing costs per unit of electricity produced by an estimated 25%.

At the early development stages, big-data analytics from plant-level measurements, including neural network/AI controls, and component 3D printing and hybrid materials for wind towers, are both potentially highly disruptive areas.

Sensing and controls including digital twins Readiness level:

Big data analytics from plant-level measurements Readiness level:

Component 3D printing and hybrid materials Readiness level:

Colored bars represent the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of each technology. Learn more about TRLs