The University of Delaware and the National Renewable Energy Lab are working together to establish a test site for as many as 10 commercial offshore wind turbines. Together, the lab and the university will establish procedures for testing turbines to see how they hold up in the Atlantic environment and methods for predicting the costs of wind energy in the United States.
The school signed a $500,000 cooperative research and development deal with the lab in June and is in the formative stage of developing a plan to establish a test site for commercial wind turbines, said Jeremy Firestone, University of Delaware associate professor of marine policy.
The school is not immediately ready to pick a location, said Firestone, but is considering several sites in the Atlantic Ocean off Delaware’s coast.
Shallow water suitable for offshore turbines is 10 meters to 25 meters deep and, depending on the ocean floor, is found 7 miles to 14 miles offshore, said Firestone. “It varies in different places. There’s not a set distance offshore,” he said. In some places, the ocean floor drops sharply off, he said.
Permitting requirements will depend on whether the chosen site is in state or federal waters, Firestone said. University researchers are contemplating various qualities of each potential site, including wind velocity and frequency. “There are tradeoffs. The farther out you go, you have stronger winds, but it’s more expensive to install transmission,” Firestone said.
Once the university selects a potential location, it must ensure turbine construction will not conflict with fisheries nurseries, shipping or other uses.
Firestone said the university plans to install three to 10 turbines. “The goal is to test new designs. There are already wind turbines in the North Sea, but the Atlantic is obviously different. It’s dustier, it has nor’easters and hurricanes,” he said. The project requires a place where manufacturers can test how their designs stand up to the challenging environment. “Manufacturers can put up their new turbines – you want to test them. Before you put out 100, put out one or two and make sure you have no issues,” Firestone said.
The university and the energy lab will each contribute $500,000 to the project over five years, Firestone said. The university will spend most of its portion on salaries for faculty or graduate students working on the project.
Firestone said the energy lab is the leading national lab working on renewable energy. It also houses the National Wind Technology Center. Firestone said the energy lab already has an onshore wind test site in Boulder, Colo. He said the test site will enhance research and education at the university. The university’s research will advance renewable-energy technology, Firestone said.
“We believe that if such a test site is located off of Delaware, it will make it more likely that wind research and manufacturing jobs will come to Delaware,” said Firestone.
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