2. Installing OpenFAST

Guidelines and procedures for obtaining precompiled binaries or compiling OpenFAST from source code are described here. While there are multiple ways to achieve the same outcome, the OpenFAST team has developed a comprehensive and well thought out system for compiling the source code. Thus, the methods described here are the only officially supported and maintained paths for obtaining an OpenFAST executable.

For Windows users only, precompiled binaries are available as described in the Download binaries section. For all platforms, OpenFAST is configured to build with with CMake and a system-appropriate build tool. Background on CMake is given in Understanding CMake, and procedures for configuring and compiling are given in CMake with Make for Linux/macOS and CMake with Visual Studio for Windows. Finally, an alternative and more appropriate option for compiling on Windows while doing active software development is given in Visual Studio Solution for Windows.

2.1. Download binaries

Each tagged release is accompanied by precompiled binaries for Windows systems. DLL’s for MAP and the DISCON controllers are also included. The following architecture and precision combinations are currently available:

  • 32 bit single precision
  • 64 bit single precision
  • 64 bit double precision

All precompiled binaries can be found in the Assets dropdown in the GitHub Releases. Click here to download the latest binaries.

2.2. Compile from source

For compiling from source code, the NREL OpenFAST team has developed an approach that uses CMake to generate build files for all platforms. Currently, CMake support for Visual Studio while doing active development is not well supported, so OpenFAST maintains a Visual Studio solution giving Windows developers a better option for developing code, compiling and debugging in a streamlined manner. See Visual Studio Solution for Windows for more information.

2.2.1. Dependencies

Compiling OpenFAST from source requires additional libraries and tools that are not distributed with the OpenFAST repository. In many cases, these tools can be installed with a system’s package manager (e.g. homebrew for macOS, yum for CentOS/Red Hat, or apt for Debian-based systems like Ubuntu). If binaries are downloaded or compiled manually, be sure they are installed in a standard location for your system so that the other components of the OpenFAST build system can find the dependencies. Build tools

An environment-specific build system is required and will consist of a combination of the packages listed in the table below.

Package Applicable systems Minimum version Link
CMake All 3.0 https://cmake.org
GNU Make macOS, Linux 1.8 https://www.gnu.org/software/make/
Visual Studio Windows 2015 https://visualstudio.microsoft.com>
GNU Compiler Collection (gfortran, gcc, g++) macOS, Linux 4.6.0 https://gcc.gnu.org
Intel Parallel Studio (ifort, icc) All 2013 https://software.intel.com/en-us/parallel-studio-xe/ Math libraries

Math libraries with the BLAS and LAPACK interfaces are also required. These can be obtained as free, open source libraries or paid, closed source versions. Some packages contain separate libraries for each interface while others have the interfaces bundles into a single binary. The most common options are listed in the table below.

Library Maintainer Paid/Free Open Source? Link
BLAS NetLib Free Yes http://www.netlib.org/blas/
LAPACK NetLib Free Yes http://www.netlib.org/lapack/
BLAS/LAPACK OpenBLAS Free Yes https://www.openblas.net
MKL Intel Paid No https://software.intel.com/en-us/mkl Dependencies for the test suite

The following packages are required to run the test suite: Dependencies for the C++ API

When using the C++ API, the following packages are required:

  • HDF5 (provided by HDF5_ROOT)
  • yaml-cpp (provided by YAML_ROOT)

2.2.2. Get the code

OpenFAST can be cloned (i.e., downloaded) from its Github repository via the command line:

git clone https://github.com/OpenFAST/OpenFAST.git

An archive of the source code can also be downloaded directly from these links:

2.2.3. Visual Studio Solution for Windows

A complete Visual Studio solution is maintained for working with the OpenFAST on Windows systems. The procedure for configuring the system and proceding with the build process are documentated in the following section:

2.2.4. Understanding CMake

To more fully understand CMake and its methodology, visit this guide on running CMake.

CMake is a build configuration system that creates files as input to a build tool like GNU Make, Visual Studio, or Ninja. CMake does not compile code or run compilers directly, but rather creates the environment needed for another tool to run compilers and create binaries. A CMake project is described by a series of files called CMakeLists.txt located in directories throughout the project. The main CMake file for OpenFAST is located at openfast/CMakeLists.txt and each module and glue-code has its own CMakeLists.txt; for example, AeroDyn and BeamDyn have one at openfast/modules/aerodyn/CMakeLists.txt and openfast/modules/beamdyn/CMakeLists.txt, respectively. Running CMake

Running CMake and a build tool will create many files (text files and binaries) used in the various stages of the build. For this reason, a build folder should be created to contain all of the generated files associated with the build process. Here, an important file called CMakeCache.txt contains the user-defined settings for the CMake configuration. This file functions like memory storage for the build. It is initially created the first time the CMake command is run and populated with the initial settings. Then, any subsequent changes to the settings will be updated and stored there.

CMake can be executed in a few ways:

  • Command line interace: cmake
  • Command line curses interface: ccmake
  • Official CMake GUI

The CMake GUI is only distributed for Windows, but it can be built from source for other platforms. OpenFAST’s build process focuses on the command line execution of CMake for both the Linux/macOS and Windows terminals. The command line syntax to run CMake for OpenFAST is generally:

cmake <path-to-primary-CMakeLists.txt> [options]

    -D <var>[:<type>]=<value>    = Create or update a cmake cache entry.

For example, a common CMake command issued from the openfast/build directory is:

# cmake <path-to-primary-CMakeLists.txt> [options]
#   where
#     <path-to-primary-CMakeLists.txt> is ".."
#     [options] can be


The command line curses interface can be invoked similarly:

ccmake ..

The interface will be rendered in the terminal window and all navigation happens through keyboard inputs. OpenFAST CMake options

CMake has a large number of general configuration variables available. A good resource for useful CMake variables is at this link: GitLab CMake variables. The CMake API documentation is also helpful for searching through variables and determining the resulting action. Note that the CMake process should be well understood before customizing the general options.

The CMake options specific to OpenFAST and their default settings are:

BUILD_DOCUMENTATION            - Build documentation (Default: OFF)
BUILD_OPENFAST_CPP_API         - Enable building OpenFAST - C++ API (Default: OFF)
BUILD_OPENFAST_SIMULINK_API    - Enable building OpenFAST for use with Simulink
BUILD_SHARED_LIBS              - Enable building shared libraries (Default: OFF)
BUILD_TESTING                  - Build the testing tree (Default: OFF)
CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE               - Choose the build type: Debug Release (Default: Release)
CMAKE_Fortran_MODULE_DIRECTORY - Set the Fortran Modules directory
CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX           - Install path prefix, prepended onto install directories.
DOUBLE_PRECISION               - Treat REAL as double precision (Default: ON)
FPE_TRAP_ENABLED               - Enable Floating Point Exception (FPE) trap in compiler options (Default: OFF)
GENERATE_TYPES                 - Use the openfast-regsitry to autogenerate types modules
ORCA_DLL_LOAD                  - Enable OrcaFlex library load (Default: OFF)
USE_DLL_INTERFACE              - Enable runtime loading of dynamic libraries (Default: ON)

Additional system-specific options may exist for a given system, but those should not impact the OpenFAST configuration. As mentioned above, the configuration variables are set initially but can be changed at any time. For example, the defaults may be accepted to initially configure the project, but then the settings may be configured individually:

# Initial configuration with the default settings
cmake ..

# Change the build to Debug mode rather than Release
cmake .. -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug

# Use dynamic linking rather than static linking

The commands above are equivalent to having run this command the first time:

# Initial configuration in Debug mode with dynamic linking

This option allows to set the compiler optimization level and debug information. The value and its effect are listed in the table below.

Release -O3 optimization level
RelWithDebInfo -O2 optimization level with -g flag for debug info
MinSizeRel -O1 optimization level
Debug No optimization and -g flag for debug info; additional debugging flags: -fcheck=all -pedantic -fbacktrace

Use Debug during active development to add debug symbols for use with a debugger. This build type also adds flags for generating runtime checks that would otherwise result in undefined behavior. MinSizeRel adds basic optimizations and targets a minimal size for the generated executable. The next level, RelWithDebInfo, enables vectorization and other more agressive optimizations. It also adds debugging symbols and results in a larger executable size. Finally, use Release for best performance at the cost of increased compile time.

This flag can be set with the following command:


This flag sets the location of the compiled binaries when the build tool runs the install command. It should be a full path in a carefully chosen location. The binaries will be copied into include, lib, and bin subfolders under the value of this flag. The default is to install binaries within the repository in a folder called install.

This flag can be set with the following command:

cmake .. -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX="/usr/local/" Setting the build tool

CMake can target a variety of build tools or generators. To obtain a list of available generators on the current system, run with the empty generator flag, select the target from the list, and rerun with the generator flag populated:

# Run with the empty -G flag to get a list of available generators
cmake .. -G

# CMake Error: No generator specified for -G
# Generators
# * Unix Makefiles               = Generates standard UNIX makefiles.
# Ninja                        = Generates build.ninja files.
# Xcode                        = Generate Xcode project files.
# CodeBlocks - Ninja           = Generates CodeBlocks project files.
# CodeBlocks - Unix Makefiles  = Generates CodeBlocks project files.
# CodeLite - Ninja             = Generates CodeLite project files.
# CodeLite - Unix Makefiles    = Generates CodeLite project files.
# Sublime Text 2 - Ninja       = Generates Sublime Text 2 project files.
# Sublime Text 2 - Unix Makefiles
#                              = Generates Sublime Text 2 project files.
# Kate - Ninja                 = Generates Kate project files.
# Kate - Unix Makefiles        = Generates Kate project files.
# Eclipse CDT4 - Ninja         = Generates Eclipse CDT 4.0 project files.
# Eclipse CDT4 - Unix Makefiles= Generates Eclipse CDT 4.0 project files.

# Choose one from the list above and pass it as an argument after -G
#   NOTE: wrap this is in quotes!
cmake .. -G"Sublime Text 2 - Ninja"


If the chosen generator name contains spaces, be sure to wrap it in quotes. Math libraries

The CMake project is configured to search for the required math libraries in default locations. However, if math libraries are not found, they can be specified directly to CMake. The two required libraries are BLAS and LAPACK, and their location can be passed to CMake with this command syntax:

cmake .. -DBLAS_LIBRARIES="/path/to/blas" -DLAPACK_LIBRARIES="/path/to/lapack"

The paths given should be to the directory which contains the libraries, not to the libraries themselves.

2.2.5. CMake with Make for Linux/macOS

After reading Understanding CMake, proceed with configuring OpenFAST. The CMake project is well developed for Linux and macOS systems, so the default settings should work as given. These settings should only be changed when a custom build is required.

The procedure for configuring CMake and compiling with GNU Make on Linux and macOS systems is given below.

# Clone the repository from GitHub using git
git clone https://github.com/OpenFAST/OpenFAST.git

# Move into the OpenFAST directory
cd OpenFAST

# Create the build directory and move into it
mkdir build
cd build

# Execute CMake with the default options;
# this step creates the Makefiles
cmake ..

# Execute the Make-help command to list all available targets
make help

# Choose a particular target or give no target to compile everything


Compile in parallel by adding “-jN” where N is the number of parallel processes to use

This will build the OpenFAST project in the build directory. Binaries are located in openfast/build/glue-codes/ and openfast/build/modules/. Since all build-related files are located in the build directory, a new fresh build process can be accomplished by simply deleting the build directory and starting again.

2.2.6. CMake with Visual Studio for Windows

After reading Understanding CMake, proceed with configuring OpenFAST. The result of this configuration process will be a Visual Studio solution which will be fully functional for compiling any of the targets within OpenFAST. However, this method lacks support for continued active development. Specifically, any settings that are configured in the Visual Studio solution directly will be lost any time CMake is executed. Therefore, this method should only be used to compile binaries, and the procure described in Visual Studio Solution for Windows should be used for active OpenFAST development on Windows.

The procedure for configuring CMake and compiling with Visual Studio on Windows systems is given below.

# Clone the repository from GitHub using git
git clone https://github.com/OpenFAST/OpenFAST.git

# Move into the OpenFAST directory
cd OpenFAST

# Create the build directory and move into it
mkdir build
cd build

# Execute CMake with the default options and a specific Visual Studio version
# and build architecture. For a list of available CMake generators, run
# ``cmake .. -G``.
# This step creates the Visual Studio solution.
cmake .. -G "Visual Studio 14 2015 Win64"

# Open the generated Visual Studio solution
start OpenFAST.sln

Visual Studio will open a solution containing all of the OpenFAST projects, and any module library, module driver, or glue-code can be compiled from there. The compiled binaries are located within a directory determined by the Visual Studio build type (Release, Debug, or RelWithDebInfo) in openfast/build/glue-codes/ and openfast/build/modules/. For example, the OpenFAST executable will be located at openfast/build/glue-codes/Release/openfast.exe when compiling in Release mode.

The CMake-generated Visual Studio build is not currently fully functional. Any configurations made to the Solution in the Visual Studio UI will be lost when CMake is executed, and this can happen whenever a change is made to the structure of the file system or if the CMake configuration is changed. It is recommended that this method not be used for debugging or active development on Windows. Instead, see Visual Studio Solution for Windows.

2.3. Appendix

The following are additional methods for installation which may not be fully test or may be deprecated in the future.