Wind testing site could bring insight, sustainable energy
Firestone: “real-world tests could enhance reliability of turbines”
Published: Monday, September 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 22:09
University and government officials are awaiting approval to build a wind testing site off the Delaware coast.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory and university professors and administrators submitted a proposal last month to establish the site in the Atlantic Ocean that would provide researchers with insight into the offshore wind industry.
Jeremy Firestone, a professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy, is leading the project on the university’s side of the proposal. According to Firestone, the university’s focus will be on site development and research, while the NREL will primarily focus on the testing.
The site will provide a platform for manufacturers of offshore wind turbines to test different aspects of their equipment in realistic conditions, rather just in the lab or on land, according to Firestone. The proposal letter states that the site will provide research to advance offshore wind technology and will address the challenges the industry has encountered in installation and interactions with the environment.
“If you could do real-world tests, you could enhance reliability of these wind turbines and effectively render them bankable,” Firestone said.
He also said commercial developers looking to build sites for the wind turbines are more likely to purchase the equipment if it meets international certification standards, the primary benefit of the offshore site. Capital for developing new sites will be less expensive if lenders have confidence in the equipment, leading to more sites being built, Firestone said.
The DOE is currently reviewing the proposal and could not comment on the project’s status. The proposal is in its final stages of conceptualization and research and, if approved, the department will initiate the next step of the process.
Firestone said Delaware provides the right atmosphere to study these challenges due to its geographical location and the university’s facilities. Because of its long, gradual continental shelf, the Atlantic Ocean is an ideal location to build, maintain and study offshore wind equipment, he said.
“The university has the most active offshore wind research program in the United States,” Firestone said. “We have a supportive public and we have government officials who are supporters of the offshore wind proposal.”
Wind energy is a dependable, local and renewable resource, according to senior Elisa Sarantschin, a coastal and marine geoscience major who has studied wind energy.
“Wind energy is clean energy,” Sarantschin said. “Every kilowatt of energy is free of the toxic emissions that pollute our water and air.”
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) who supports the proposal, stated in a press release that this area has a great amount of wind energy potential.
“Just off the Atlantic Coast, we have enough energy to replace 300 dirty, large coal plants and enough power to support nine states from Massachusetts to North Carolina,” Carper said.
Firestone said using wind turbines benefits the economy, by creating jobs in manufacturing, construction, research and engineering as well as keeping money spent on energy in the United States.
Senior engineering major Dave Liebers said research in wind energy is a sound investment because it helps eliminate the need for fossil fuels and creates a new market for renewable energy in the economy.