Expert perspectives on the wind plant of the future
Wind power technology has changed rapidly in recent years. Technology innovation, evolving power markets, and competing land and ocean uses continue to influence the design and operation of wind turbines and plants. Anticipating these trends and their impact on future facilities can inform commercial strategies and research priorities. Drawing from a recent survey of 140 of the world's foremost wind experts, we identify expectations of future wind plant design in 2035, both for onshore and offshore wind. Experts anticipate continued growth in turbine size, to 5.5 (onshore) and 17 MW (offshore), with plants located in increasingly less favorable wind and siting regimes. They expect plant sizes of 1,100 MW for fixed-bottom and 600 MW for floating offshore wind. Experts forecast enhanced grid-system value from wind through significant to widespread use of larger rotors, hybrid projects with batteries and hydrogen production, and more. To explain experts' perspectives on future plant design and operation, we identify five mechanisms: economies of unit, plant, and resource scale; grid-system value economies; and production efficiencies. We characterize learning effects as a moderating influence on the strength of these mechanisms. In combination, experts predict that these design choices support levelized cost of energy reductions of 27% (onshore) and 17%–35% (floating and fixed-bottom offshore) by 2035 compared to today, while enhancing wind energy's grid service offerings. Our findings provide a much-needed benchmark for representing future wind technologies in power sector models and address a critical research gap by explaining the economics behind wind energy design choices.