Summary of the session on “Offshore Wind: Discussing Opportunities for Innovation with Industry” held at the OCEANS 2022 Hampton roads.
7 Dec, 2022
Roberto Ravenna, University of Strathclyde, UK
With the threat of climate change looming dark, humanity is set to turn more than ever to renewables to replace fossil fuels as much as possible. Wind energy is one form of renewable energy that has seen success worldwide in places such as Europe, especially in northern countries. In recent years, there has been an emerging interest in tapping into offshore wind energy's enormous potential to boost renewable energy production and cut down on fossil fuels. Furthermore, wind generation at scale – compared to hydropower, for example – is a relatively modern renewable energy source but is snowballing in many countries worldwide. Figure 1 shows the energy per capita generated from wind each year. This includes both onshore and offshore wind farms.
This article summarises the talks at the OCEANS 2022 session “Offshore Wind: Discussing Opportunities for Innovation with Industry” held on Tuesday, October 18, 2022, in the Town Hall of Virginia Beach Convention Centre. The panellists commented on the opportunities, challenges, and future of offshore wind in the US. The session aimed to reflect on possible solutions to overcome the challenges of offshore wind in the US.
The panellists at the session were well-represented by industry, government agencies and academia, and included
- Michael T. Lundsgaard, Director of Operations and Maintenance for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Pilot.
- Sarah McElman, Senior Metocean Analyst at Avangrid Renewables.
- James Fisher, Supervisor at Fugro USA Marine, Inc.
- Rodney Cluck, Chief of the Division of Environmental Sciences for the Office of Renewable Energy Programs for the Unites States.
The session was moderated by Josh Kohut, Professor in the department of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers University.
The offshore wind industry in the United States is young and filled with unsolved problems and opportunities for innovation. On the other hand, the world is already reaping the benefits of creating power from the wind, but now is tackling the challenge to continue lowering the levelized cost of energy produced and improving compatibility with the ocean environment and other activities. However, panellists concurred that signals of a change for the US are in the air.
Michael Lundsgaard spoke about wind farm robustness and maintenance. He focused on the importance of being predictive and trying to catch the faults in wind turbines/installations before they happen. He introduced the (pilot) commercial project of 178 wind turbines to be installed 27.7 miles off the coast of Virginia in an area of roughly 112,000 acres. This is a massive project and excellent economic development for this region, and sets one example on how wind energy is making inroads in the US. Mike believes there will be loads of great opportunities for research and innovation to anticipate damages before they occur and save on maintenance costs.
Sarah McElman identified some of the major challenges of an offshore wind farm in the US. These include the American hurricanes, deep waters, and oscillating temperatures, and also the fact that wind itself is not as ideal as the North Sea conditions where offshore wind technology is well established. Regardless, a state of the art 3-gigawatt offshore wind farm is under construction already off the coast of New England. After construction it will be delivering renewable energy to Virginia, North Carolina or whoever wants it.
James Fisher highlighted the geological challenges of acquiring data in hard-to-reach places. The developers can plan their cable routes, either via micro-routing or during construction. Once the cables are installed, there is always the risk that they get damaged. For pretty high resolution, data volumes are large but need to be integrated - a single-ground model is necessary. One solution is AI and machine learning to find ways to collect and process data much more rapidly and effectively.
Rodney Cluck emphasised the socioeconomic opportunities of windfarms as he oversees a $30 million annual program to develop over 3 billion acres of windfarms. Wind energy aside – ecology, wildlife transmission would thrive; - economy, many jobs would be created before, during and after the construction of the sites. Furthermore, not only commercial but also recreational fishing would benefit from offshore windfarms. And all this can only improve the socioeconomics and well-being of the communities where the windfarms are installed.
A brilliant Questions & Answers session followed the resonant talks and concluded a remarkable session at OCEANS 2022. All the attendees succeeded in discussing a delicate topic constructively and without filters. The session ended with the reassurance that the course taken to put up to speed the offshore wind industry in the US is proving to be the right one.
About The author: Roberto Ravenna is a PhD student at the Department of Naval Architecture, Ocean and Marine Engineering, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. He is also an active IEEE OES Student member and former chair of the OES Student branch chapter in Strathclyde. Reach out to him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robertoravenna/
Fig 1: Credits: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/wind-electricity-per-capita
Fig. 2: Adobe Stock