The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is exploring the immense potential for offshore wind energy development off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts using high-tech research buoys. In December 2014, researchers from DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) deployed one of two specialized buoys near Virginia Beach, Virginia. The second buoy will be deployed near Coos Bay, Oregon.

Each buoy utilizes lidar (light detection and ranging) and other meteorological and oceanographic instruments that measure wind speed and direction while recording air and sea surface temperature, barometric pressure, relative humidity, wave height and period, water conductivity, and subsurface ocean currents. These measurements will help developers quantify the wind resource at particular offshore sites, and will allow scientists to better understand air-sea interactions and their impact on how much wind energy a turbine could produce at particular offshore sites.

A National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study published in August 2014 estimated that the United States has enough offshore wind energy resources to power 17 million homes. Currently, no offshore wind farms exist in the United States, but 14 are in various stages of development, with DOE funding three demonstration projects in New Jersey, Virginia, and Oregon. The buoys will initially be used to characterize the wind resource at the two demonstration sites near Virginia and Oregon.
Data from the high-tech buoys will help validate the wind resource models that have been used to predict the U.S. offshore wind potential, improve offshore turbine development, and reduce barriers to private investment in large-scale offshore wind energy development.

The buoys were purchased by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and are being operated and managed by PNNL. They initially arrived at PNNL’s Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim Bay, in the Puget Sound northwest of Seattle, for a brief commissioning period in fall 2014. The buoys will operate for up to one year at their respective offshore wind demonstration projects.

To learn more about the buoys, read; Ahoy, Offshore Wind: Advanced Buoys Bring Vital Data to Untapped Energy Resource.

To learn more about DOE’s offshore wind energy research and development efforts, read National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study and visit Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects.