Introductory Note

Grand Vision for Wind Energy: Next Technology and Infrastructure Challenges to Realize Wind's Full Potential


The wind industry has realized substantial growth reaching nearly 0.5 TW of installed capacity in 2016 and producing about 4% of global electricity demand in 2015.[1]  Equipment, installation and operation costs have decreased while energy production per turbine has increased.  Integration challenges in the broader electric system have been successfully addressed in many markets as the level of wind energy contribution to particular systems has grown to 10-15% and beyond. Offshore wind technology is leveraging industrialization and standardization pathways which are accelerating cost-effective deployment similar to that realized by the land-based wind industry in the past decade.  Figure 1 illustrates levelized cost of energy over the past decades and associated learning rates. Future deployment pathways associated with historical learning rates are illustrated relative to a baseline identified by leading wind industry experts.[2]  What does the future of the wind industry hold?

Figure 1.  Historical learning rates and illustration of future deployment levels assuming continued learning.  Source:  Expert survey on future cost of wind energy (Wiser et al., 2016) updated to 2016 USD; future deployment based on historical learning rates added by authors.

A variety of scenarios for future wind deployment illustrate a range of possibilities including from annual installations sustained near current-levels to rapid growth in annual installation.  Achieving the highest levels of future wind deployment will require “strong international political commitment towards meeting climate goals and national energy policy driven by the need for enhanced energy security, price stability, job creation and the need to conserve our precious fresh water resources” (GWEC 2016). Over the next decades, wind-generated electricity could grow to provide over a third of global electricity demand; wind technology could become a primary electricity generation technology.

To realize the full potential for wind technology, a paradigm shift in the innovation context for wind energy is required.  IEA Wind is uniquely placed to develop the vision of the paradigm and what is needed for its realization.  In addition to political commitment, wind technology and infrastructure innovation will be required.  This workshop will bring together experts to identify and characterize the technology and infrastructure innovations that will enable aggressive wind industry growth such that wind is a key source for global electricity generation in the decades to come.


In a workshop setting, experts will be encouraged to provide input and insights associated with scenarios that yield aggressive wind industry growth globally.  The focus will be on wind turbine and wind plant technology and associated wind industry and electric system infrastructure advances.  Questions for discussion include:

  • What conditions affect wind growing incrementally until it is a dominant source for global electricity generation? Relatedly, where does a paradigm shift take place in terms of technology pathways today and wind turbine and wind plant technology as a dominant electricity generation technology in the global grid system in 2030/2050?
  • What are R&D challenges that arise in an aggressive (paradigm shifting) growth scenario relative to incremental growth?
  • What innovative infrastructure developments would support aggressive wind deployment (e.g., transmission infrastructure, storage technologies)?  What is the current state-of-the-art in these technologies and what are the major challenges with these systems in realizing a wind energy dominant electricity grid of the future?
  • How does wind turbine and wind plant technology need to evolve to meet different infrastructure developments and different market contexts (e.g. established vs. emerging)?


The TEM is scheduled for Sunday October 22nd-Monday October 23rd, 2018 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, USA.  Sunday evening will begin with a dinner and brainstorming session to set the stage for the Monday portion of the meeting     All attendees must attend both days in order to accomplish the workshop goals.

The TEM will include:

  • Introduction
  • Context for high wind deployment scenarios from invited speakers
  • Break-out sessions where participants identify specific wind turbine and wind plant technology and infrastructure characteristics that align with future wind deployment scenarios.   Breakout sessions will focus on broad topic areas but will engage participants across land-based, fixed-bottom offshore and floating offshore wind industry segments.  Example topic areas and disciplines include:
    • Cost of Wind Energy - with perspectives that span wind turbines and wind plants including materials, atmospheric phenomena, met-ocean conditions, controls, innovative concepts and design, installation, and operation strategies, etc.
    • Grid Integration and Plant Control – with perspectives that span electric system operation requirements across all time scales, including ancillary services,  short-term operations, and capacity planning, and wind plant technologies to maintain high reliability and resilience.
    • Deployment Challenges – with perspectives that span developing and established markets including grid flexibility, manufacturing and logistics, material resource availability, and social and environmental impacts.
  • Conclusion and next steps

Access detailed Program


Participants include strategic, system-level thought leaders with wind research, technology, cost, and/or market expertise.  Representation from both established and emerging wind market participants will provide a breadth of expertise.  All participants will be expected to contribute to break-out sessions targeted at eliciting perspectives related to future wind deployment challenges from both technology and infrastructure perspectives.


One outcome of the meeting will be a global agenda to move toward wind technology as a primary electricity generation option that is articulated in a published article (see for example, This involves structured ideas and concepts regarding activities that the wind industry R&D community can undertake to influence wind technology becoming a primary electricity generation source to meet global electricity demand. This information will be utilized by the IEA Wind Executive Committee to develop a five-year strategic plan and by other participating organizations to inform R&D activities.


[2] Wiser et al., (2016).