A day on the beach is filled with sand between the toes, and the smell of saltwater carried by the wind.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE), roughly 80% of the country’s electricity demand stems from coastal states. Along the east coast, average wind speeds vary from 7 to 10 m/sec. And pockets along the west coast experience average wind speeds greater than 10 m/sec.
“Offshore wind resources are abundant, stronger and blow more consistently than land-based wind resources,” according to the DOE. “Data on the technical resource potential suggests more than 4,000,000 MW of capacity could be accessed in state and federal waters along the coasts of the (U.S.) and the Great Lakes. While not all of this resource potential will realistically be developed, the magnitude (approximately four times the combined generating capacity of all U.S. electric power plants) represents a substantial opportunity to generate electricity near coastal populations.”
Between 2006 and 2014, the DOE awarded more than $300 million for 72 projects focused on offshore wind development.
Recently, NPR reported the first foundation for Deepwater Wind’s Block Island wind farm was installed. The 30-MW, five turbine project is slated to go online in the fourth quarter of 2016. It will be the country’s first offshore wind farm, according to Deepwater Wind. The wind farm, located three miles southeast off the island, is eventually expected to save islanders as much as 40% on energy bills.
Offshore wind energy is present in Europe, with close to 2,500 wind turbines already installed, according to the European Wind Energy Association. In 2014, 536 turbines were erected. Cumulatively, 74 wind farms in 11 European countries generate a total of 8,045.3 MW.
“Offshore energy is a vast, largely untapped resource of renewable energy with enormous potential,” said Andrew Myers, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeaster Univ. and principal investigator of Northeastern’s Sustainable Structures Group.
Myers and the Sustainable Structures Group have received support from the National Science Foundation and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for research into how hurricanes will affect offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean. Ensuring offshore wind farms remain undamaged means changing the design to anticipate the brutal effects of hurricanes.
“We are characterizing potential damage to offshore wind turbines from high winds and huge waves. We are also developing innovative approaches in which sacrificial structural ‘fuses,’ which may be readily replaced after a hurricane, are built into the turbine and are intentionally designed to fail as to leave the remainder of the turbine undamaged,” said Myers, who likened the concept to an electrical fuse, which is sacrificed during an electrical overload to protect the system’s other components.
According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the government has awarded nine leases for offshore wind projects on the Atlantic coast since 2010. The sales have generated over $14.5 million in high bids for over 700,000 acres in federal waters.
Deepwater Wind plans two other offshore wind farms, one on a 256 square mile site near Rhode Island and Long Island, which will serve New England and Long Island; and another off the coast of New Jersey. Both projects consist of around 200 wind turbines.
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