During the last three years, the international wind energy research community has determined that for wind power to fulfill its expected role as a major global supplier of carbon-free energy, critical challenges around the design, development, and deployment of wind energy must be addressed — quickly.

The Grand Challenges of Wind Energy publication series

In an expression of consensus around these critical challenges, 100 worldwide wind energy experts have written a series of 10 articles for publication in Wind Energy Science (WES). This effort was supported and guided by the European Academy of Wind Energy Publications Committee  (EAWE). The articles synthesize and clarify the most critical wind energy science needs. Some articles have already been published; others are planned for submission during the coming months.

📚 Read the full article here:

Corresponding Authors: Paul Veers and Katherine Dykes

Co-authors: Sukanta Basu, Alessandro Bianchini, Andy Clifton, Peter Green, Hannele Holttinen, Lena Kitzing, Branko Kosovic, Julie Lundquist, Johan Meyers, Mark O’Malley, Will Shaw, and Bethany Straw.

Explore the grand challenges publication series below.

Introduction to the series and the perspective piece by corresponding author, Paul Veers:

As nations moves toward higher renewable energy contributions to the electrical grid, the demand for wind energy advancement and deployment grows. However, to meet that demand, critical challenges around the design, development, and deployment of land-based and offshore wind energy must be addressed.

The spark to compile the “grand challenges” in wind energy ignited at a workshop in 2017, where 70 wind experts representing 15 countries identified areas of wind energy research that require further progress from the scientific community. In 2019, scientists from worldwide academic, government, and industry organizations coauthored an article on the issue published in the journal Science.

What would Andy Clifton say to an influential politician in a 30-second elevator ride? “I would say digitalisation is the thing that’s going to allow us to work together to get ever more turbines into the grid, to get more reliable power to more people in more places, to spread wind energy into more and more communities, and to provide the best the cheapest most reliable power supply possible.”

Interview with Alessandro Bianchini, lead author of Small Wind Turbine paper in the Grand Challenges of Wind Energy series. Wind turbines have become the largest rotating machines on Earth, and while upscaling is planned for the future, small wind turbines are experiencing renewed interest, fueling energy transition and smart grid development. 1 million small wind turbines are installed around the world producing a total of 1.5 GW of power.


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The grand challenges to help wind energy contribute to a carbon-free energy system in the United States include:

  • Wind resources, atmospheric science, and the physics of air flow at wind farms
  • System dynamics and materials involved in wind turbines and wind farm technology
  • Optimization and control of wind farm operation and maintenance for reliability and resiliency
  • Environmental co-design to situate wind farms to local constraints and opportunities
  • Social science to identify how wind plants can add value to host communities
  • Crosscutting and emerging initiatives, such as digitalization and education.
This pyramid illustrates four generations of wind energy development. Each generation’s achievements expanded wind energy’s impact (shown in the blue boxes on the left); however, in moving quickly from generation to generation, some underlying science was left unresolved (shown in the white boxes on the right). Generation 1 delivered working energy conversion systems, Generation 2 solved low-cost and reliable turbines, and Generation 3 is beginning to provide controllable wind plants that support the grid. The aspirational goal of Generation 4 is a carbon-neutral future energy system. Wind can be the foundation for the fourth generation—but not until the gaps in the previous generations are addressed. Graphic by NREL

Focus Areas

This effort identified three focus areas for research in wind energy science and technology as well as a cross-disciplinary area and one that addresses societal and environmental impacts. With these R&D needs identified, researchers can better tailor their work to fill the gaps, which could enable more efficient, cheaper, and more reliable wind energy generation across the United States and the world.

Grand Challenge 1: The Atmosphere

To improve wind turbine performance and reliability, researchers must increase characterization of air turbulence, wakes (slower air movement downwind of a wind turbine), and local climates to understand their effect on energy generation. Specifically for offshore wind farms, additional research is needed to optimize for offshore wind environments.

Grand Challenge 2: The Wind Turbine

Increasing sizes and flexibility of wind turbines have surpassed modeling tools. To update those models, researchers need more large-scale experimental data to validate upgrades and develop new simulation tools. On the smaller side of wind turbines, advancing small-scale wind turbines is necessary to support the growing distributed wind energy deployment.

Grand Challenge 3: The Plant and Grid

To optimize wind energy generation, further research must analyze complex air flow through wind farms and how wind farm and hybrid power plant systems can contribute to the electric grid.

Crosscut: Digitalization

Large amounts of data are gathered through research on wind energy. That data needs to be made accessible to the industry to efficiently support further research and development as well as standardization amongst stakeholders.

Beyond Technical Borders: Environmental and Social Issues

With increased deployment of wind turbines and wind power plants around the country, additional investigations should evaluate the impacts on wildlife and habitats while engaging society to assess its needs, opinions, and acceptance of the industry’s growth. The publications listed below elaborate on these areas.


The Atmosphere

The Wind Turbine

The Plant and Grid


Environmental and Social Issues

  • Interdisciplinary Research Challenges in Wind Energy at the Intersection of Engineering and Environmental Science, Wind Energy Science (2022)
  • Social Aspects of Wind Energy Development, Wind Energy Science (2022)

Paul Veers Senior Research Fellow

Content courtesy of NREL communications.