Although recent circumstances have introduced an economic pause in some sectors, the U.S. offshore wind industry continues its steady progress toward a robust energy future with several offshore wind projects and related supply-chain investments in various stages of development. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) anticipates this future by focusing its attention on an array of high-priority research and development (R&D) needs, broadly categorized as advanced technology, siting and environmental challenges, and the integration of wind power at scale with the electric grid. WETO’s R&D is typically undertaken in partnership with industry and our National Laboratories and promises benefits, collectively, for all forms of wind, including offshore wind.
• The use of high-performance computing to create ExaWind, a supercharged, open-source suite of physics codes and data libraries that enable researchers to simulate the interactions among the wind resource, turbines, and power plant.
• Research that analyzed the impact of increases in wind turbine size on grid system value—and concluded that “supersized” turbines (larger than those currently envisioned) could continue to reduce costs and enhance the value of wind energy.
• Research that yields deeper understanding of wind turbine gearbox failures. Its findings on stresses, materials, and probability of failure modes may help future designs and reduce incidents of unplanned maintenance and costly downtime, reducing operation and maintenance costs.
• How research teams from Purdue University and the University of Minnesota are addressing certain environmental concerns by examining the vision and hearing physiologies of bald and golden eagles, with an aim to improve deterrents around wind turbines.
• A multilayered and scaled framework that simulates how wind plants work in their natural environment—a model that is vital to understanding wind plant performance.
And here’s an update to a story we told you about in our Spring 2020 R&D Newsletter: DOE’s upgraded lidar buoys have now been deployed off the California coast in partnership with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). As part of this effort, the buoys are collecting atmospheric, oceanographic, and meteorological data to support potential wind development projects in West Coast areas, where BOEM may develop and lease wind sites.
WETO, in conjunction with the states of New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia, supports the Offshore Wind R&D Consortium. The consortium issued its most recent solicitation on August 4, which includes three rounds reflecting challenge areas designed to develop new solutions that remove barriers and address issues essential for cost reduction, deployment, and industry growth specific to U.S. offshore wind regions. The first two rounds—enabling large-scale turbines and support structure innovation and supply chain—have closed. Submissions for the third round, which focuses on electrical systems and innovation and mitigation of use conflicts, are due October 19.
As the American Wind Energy Association’s Offshore WINDPOWER 2020 Virtual Summit begins this week (October 13–14), it’s clear that interest in offshore wind in the United States—by all parties, including many states—is burgeoning, with more than 28.5 gigawatts of power in the offshore wind pipeline at the end of 2019. However, even as plans move forward, there are technical challenges that continue to need attention, both offshore and on land.
The stories in this newsletter highlight selected and recent outcomes of WETO’s ongoing R&D portfolio aimed at addressing these challenges. At WETO, we are committed to supporting research that contributes to solutions and enables wind to become an even greater clean-energy reality for generations to come.
Robert C. Marlay, Ph.D., P.E.
Director, Wind Energy Technologies Office