Wind Energy Assessment: Balancing Environmental Impact and Resource Potential


The development of wind energy has gained significant momentum in recent years as a sustainable and renewable power source. Wind turbines offer numerous environmental and economic benefits for communities and the nation as a whole.

However, the deployment and operation of wind energy projects must address concerns related to environmental impacts and resource potential. In this article, we will explore the importance of properly assessing and mitigating these concerns to ensure the successful and sustainable growth of wind energy.

Assessing and Mitigating Environmental Impacts

Assessing and Mitigating Environmental Impacts

Wind energy development and operations can have negative impacts on wildlife, potentially delaying projects and affecting populations. To address these concerns, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) engages with stakeholders, facilitates research, and disseminates results on cost-effective approaches to monitoring and minimizing environmental impacts.

Monitoring and Deterrent Tools

Monitoring and Deterrent Tools

WETO invests in innovative technologies to refine our understanding of wildlife impacts and minimize them at both land-based and offshore wind farms. These technologies include monitoring, deterrent, and curtailment tools.

By monitoring wildlife behavior and interactions with wind turbines, researchers can develop effective strategies to reduce impacts and ensure the benefits of wind energy outweigh the challenges.

Research and Development Projects

Research and Development Projects

WETO funds peer-reviewed research through collaborations with the wind industry, environmental organizations, and competitive funding opportunities. For example, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) awarded funding to three companies to study bat behavior near wind turbines. This research aims to develop strategies to minimize bat fatalities and improve coexistence between wind energy and wildlife.

Another significant project supported by DOE and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management focuses on wildlife and fisheries monitoring efforts on the East Coast and prepares the West Coast for floating offshore wind energy development. By understanding the interactions between wind energy projects and marine ecosystems, researchers can develop effective mitigation strategies and ensure the sustainable growth of offshore wind energy.

Federal Guidelines and Partnerships

Federal Guidelines and Partnerships

WETO works closely with other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, to develop guidelines and measures for protecting wildlife, national security, and public safety. These collaborations ensure that wind energy projects meet statutory and regulatory requirements while minimizing negative impacts on wildlife and the environment.

Wind Resource Assessment and Characterization

Wind Resource Assessment and Characterization

When planning new wind power plants, developers rely on location-specific data regarding wind speed, meteorological patterns, and terrain. Wind resource maps and geospatial data provide valuable information for siting and designing wind energy projects. Additionally, improving the understanding of wind resource potential and its interaction with various factors is crucial for maximizing the utilization of wind energy.

Wind Resource Maps and Supply Curves

Wind resource maps offer a quick overview of wind resource potential in specific areas. These maps provide information on wind speed, geographic boundaries, and topographic features. Interactive maps and geospatial data also offer wind supply curves, which characterize the quantity, quality, and cost of land-based and offshore wind energy resources.

Spatial Analysis for Wind Energy Technology Development

NREL researchers are continuously working to enhance the accuracy and detail of wind resource assessments. By improving the Renewable Energy Potential (reV) model, researchers can better understand the potential wind energy production at specific sites across the country. This includes both land-based and offshore wind energy applications. The reV model takes into account changes in technology, siting policy, and wildlife risks to provide a comprehensive understanding of the nation’s wind energy potential.

The Atmosphere to Electrons Initiative

The Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) initiative, led by DOE, aims to improve the performance and reliability of wind power plants. By studying the interaction between the Earth’s atmosphere and wind power plants, the A2e initiative seeks to maximize the energy harnessed from wind while ensuring cost-effectiveness.

Research Areas

The A2e initiative focuses on four main research areas:

Plant performance and financial risk assessment: This research area aims to optimize wind power plant performance and assess the financial risks associated with wind energy projects.

Atmospheric science: Understanding atmospheric conditions and their impact on wind energy is crucial for efficient and reliable power generation.

Wind plant aerodynamics: By studying the aerodynamics of wind turbines and wind farms, researchers can optimize their design and operation.

Next-generation wind power plant technology: Exploring new technologies and innovations can lead to more efficient and cost-effective wind power plants.

The A2e initiative aims to ensure that future wind power plants are sited, built, and operated in a way that maximizes their energy production while minimizing costs.

Advancements in Wind Energy Research

Advancements in Wind Energy Research

The A2e initiative has led to numerous research efforts and projects to advance wind energy technology and understanding. Let’s explore some of these notable advancements:

AWAKEN – American WAKE experiment

The American WAKE experimeNt (AWAKEN) is a comprehensive research project focused on improving the efficiency of wind power plants. AWAKEN leverages the expertise and capabilities of multiple institutions to gather highly detailed observations of wind turbines and power plants operating in representative atmospheric conditions. The data collected during AWAKEN contributes to a better understanding of wind power plant physics and informs advancements in wind energy technology.

ExaWind – Multifidelity Simulation of Wind Turbines

ExaWind is an open-source software suite designed for multifidelity simulation of wind turbines and wind farms. This state-of-the-art tool allows researchers and engineers to test ideas and simulate wind farm physics before committing to costly development. By improving our understanding of wind farm dynamics, ExaWind simulations help lower the costs associated with wind power plant development.

Offshore Wind Research Lidar Buoys

To gather essential data for offshore wind resource characterization, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory manages two AXYS WindSentinel™ lidar buoys on behalf of WETO. These buoys use advanced measurement capabilities to capture data on wind speed, direction, atmospheric conditions, ocean currents, and more. The data collected by these buoys support decision-making processes related to offshore wind energy development.

Data Archive and Portal (DAP)

The Data Archive and Portal (DAP) serves as a repository for all data collected through A2e research. Managed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the DAP provides an accessible and secure user interface for wind energy researchers, developers, consultants, and manufacturers. This platform facilitates data access, interaction, and collaboration, fostering advancements in wind energy research and knowledge discovery.

Federal Partnerships for Wind Resource Characterization

WETO collaborates with other DOE offices, government agencies, universities, and industry partners to assess and characterize wind resources across the United States. These partnerships aim to identify areas suitable for future wind power plant development and provide valuable data to inform decision-making processes.

Wind Forecast Improvement Projects

In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, WETO leads the Wind Forecast Improvement Projects. This collaborative effort focuses on developing more accurate methods for wind forecasting. By combining targeted wind observations with advanced forecast models and algorithms, researchers aim to improve the predictability of wind energy production. Accurate wind forecasts enable system operators to better manage the integration of wind energy into the electricity grid.

Wind Integration National Dataset (WIND) Toolkit

Wind Integration National Dataset (WIND) Toolkit

DOE laboratories, in partnership with the National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, are developing the Wind Integration National Dataset (WIND) Toolkit. This comprehensive dataset and associated numerical modeling enhance our understanding of meteorological and oceanographic conditions for wind energy plants. The WIND Toolkit provides valuable information for estimating offshore wind resources, power production, and design loads, ultimately improving the technical and economic viability of wind energy projects.


Wind energy assessment plays a vital role in balancing environmental impacts and resource potential. Through monitoring, research, and collaboration, stakeholders in the wind energy industry can mitigate negative environmental impacts and ensure the sustainable growth of wind power. Advances in wind resource assessment and technology development, supported by research initiatives like A2e, further improve our understanding of wind energy potential and pave the way for a cleaner and more sustainable future.

To harness the full potential of wind energy, ongoing research, data sharing, and collaboration among industry, government agencies, and research institutions are essential. By continuing to invest in wind energy assessment and characterization, we can ensure responsible and efficient wind power plant development while minimizing environmental impacts and maximizing the benefits of renewable energy.


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