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Atmosphere to Electrons

Atmosphere to Electrons

Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) is a multi-year U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) research initiative targeting significant reductions in the cost of wind energy through an improved understanding of the complex physics governing wind flow into and through wind farms. Better insight into the flow physics has the potential to reduce wind farm energy losses by up to 20%, to reduce annual operational costs by hundreds of millions of dollars, and to improve project financing terms to more closely resemble traditional capital projects.

A2e Goals

A2e's goals and research priorities are defined around three scales of interest:

  • Mesoscale (Atmospheric Science): Includes mesoscale, planetary boundary layer, and wind plant inflow physics. Key metrics include:
    • Predicted power performance probability (P50/P99)
    • 24-hour ahead forecasted power production accuracy
    • Annual curtailment probability
  • Wind Plant Scale: Includes wind plant inflow, complex terrain, and wake physics. Key metrics include:
    • Wind plant losses
    • Wind flow uncertainties
    • Operation and maintenance costs
  • Wind Turbine Scale: Includes wind turbine inflow, rotor loading, and wake creation. Key metrics include:
    • Turbine capital cost
    • Component fatigue life
    • Tip speed and acoustic signatures

Achieving these opportunities will require a diverse set of expertise and significant resources. As a result, the Wind Program has selected subject matter experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to assist in integrated program planning for the A2e initiative. These laboratories have access to world class experimental testing facilities as well as core expertise in topics critical to the success of A2e, including atmospheric sciences, wind plant aerodynamics, turbine technology development, and high-performance computing. Along with subject matter experts at DOE, who ultimately approve and fund any proposed R&D, the national lab representatives will engage the wider wind energy community to leverage external resources and execute the research laid out in the A2e multi-year plan.

Research Thrust Areas

High-Fidelity ModelingThis thrust area will require significant high performance computing (HPC) resources and aims to significantly improve the simulation capability for multi-scale wind flows and loads through an increased understanding of the underlying physics.
Experimental Measurement CampaignsIn order to validate new and existing high fidelity simulations, A2e must deploy several experimental measurement campaigns across different scales. Proposed experiments include wind tunnel tests, scaled field tests utilizing the SNL SWiFT facility, and large field measurement campaigns at operating farms. Data of interest includes long-term atmospheric data sets, wind plant inflow, intra-wind plant flows (e.g. wakes), rotor loads measurements, etc. It is expected that new, high fidelity instrumentation will be required to successfully collect data at the resolutions required to validate the high fidelity simulations.
Data Archive and PortalSignificant effort must be taken to store simulation results and data sets in an open and easy to access manner. This platform will allow the global wind R&D community to access A2e results.
Integrated Wind Plant ControlMore accurate simulations and an improved understanding of the physics impacting wind plant performance must ultimately result in improved performance for new and operating wind power plants. One of the primary ways this can happen is through new controls systems that treat the entire wind plant as a controls optimization problem (e.g., how to deal with wakes). Furthermore, wind turbine centric controls innovation will also be required to optimize energy capture for individual assets.
 Aeroacoustics and PropagationReduction in aeroacoustics emissions (both from the plant and individual wind turbines) can lead to improved wind plant performance. It will be important to account for potential performance improvements in both high fidelity model runs as well as in experimental measurement campaigns.
Wind Plant ReliabilityR&D in this area is intended to result in more reliable, lower cost wind turbines and wind plants. Targeted R&D and the output from DOE research collaboratives inform the wind industry on potential avenues of innovation that could take advantage of an improved understanding of root causes of component failure and low reliability.
Financial Risk, Uncertainty, and Portfolio AnalysisIn order to understand the full scope of impact A2e may have on the wind industry, it will be vital to link performance uncertainty of all kinds to financial risk and potential levelized cost of electricity improvements. This thrust area seeks to quantify these linkages and tie them to specific A2e objectives and targets.
Integrated Systems Design and AnalysisSimilar to Integrated Wind Plant Controls, this thrust area will allow the increased understanding of the physics driving wind plant performance to have an impact on real world wind power technology. A2e would like to consider what the future of design tools looks like compared to the status quo, and chart a path forward.

For more information about A2e, please contact us.