Wind turbines of the future will be taller, bigger, and more efficient, opine experts in the field of renewable energy technology. These changes aren't very far ahead and could be achieved as early as the middle of the next decade, a press release from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the primary laboratory looking into renewable energy and efficiency for the Department of Energy, said.
Countries around the world are looking to tap into renewable sources of energy in their bid to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and the accompanied carbon emissions. According to the International Energy Agency's (IEA) 2021 report, renewable energy installations reached a high of 290 Gigawatts in 2021, with solar accounting for most of the expansion, followed by wind energy installations.
Advantages of wind energy
Scaling up solar farms can be challenging since they occupy a critical resource, land. In contrast, wind energy installations can be constructed without drastically altering land usage patterns and have been able to be set up offshore as well. To tide over the challenges of underwater construction, wind energy plants can now be set up on floating platforms.
Electricity generated using wind is one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today and is sold with certainty in its pricing over the long term. While wind installations are massive and turbines can be a waste management issue after their life cycle, there are many instances of reusing turbine blades, and manufacturers are hopeful of making fully recyclable blades within the next decade.
Wind energy poised to soar
Researchers at the NREL collated the opinions of 140 experts in the field to learn their expectations of wind energy plant designs for 2035.
We have already seen turbine manufacturers aiming for 15 MW power generation with blades as long as 377 feet (115 m). In a paper titled, Expert Perspectives on the Wind Plant of the Future, the researchers wrote that turbines would grow taller and their rotor diameters would increase further in the next decade to allow for larger capture of energy.
Previously published surveys had estimated that the hub height of wind turbines would reach 377 feet (115 m) by 2030. Experts have now revised these estimates for 426 feet (130 m) by 2035 and even going up to 495 feet (151 m) for offshore installations.
Not just the turbine sizes, experts also believe that the wind power plant sizes will also increase to 1,100 MW for fixed plants and up to 600 MW for floating offshore ones. To compare, the world's largest floating offshore plant in Scotland has a nominal capacity of 50 MW.
Along with other design choices made during this period, wind energy costs will further decrease by 27 percent for onshore plants while potentially dropping to between 17 to 35 percent for offshore ones, the researchers write in the paper.
The paper was published in the journal Wind Energy