UD proposes offshore wind farmEnergy Department to evaluate projects for $180 million in funding
The University of Delaware is seeking money from U.S. Department of Energy to develop an offshore wind project to demonstrate advanced technologies.
In partnership with National Renewable Energy Lab, UD proposes establishing an offshore wind test site off of the Delaware coast.
UD and NREL submitted the proposal in response to an Energy Department request, said Jeremy Firestone, a university marine science professor and principal investigator for the project.
He said Energy Department would give money to one applicant for work on accelerated deployment of energy technologies and would fund five proposals demonstrating advanced technologies.
“There’s a potential for a total of $180 million,” Firestone said. He said advanced technology proposals would each receive $4 million for one year. “At the end of the first year, DOE will select three of those five projects for additional funding up to $46.5 million, contingent on Congressional approval,” Firestone said, noting energy officials could announce in October which projects it would fund.
Tthe university and NREL have had a collaborative agreement since 2010. NREL is an Energy Department lab dedicated solely to advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies from concept to commercial application. It has offices in Washington, D.C., and offices and labs in Golden and Louisville, Colo.
The university would develop the test site and the lab would provide testing certification.
“The objective of our project is to lower the cost of offshore wind energy by doing a number of things. One would be testing technology to enhance its reliability,” Firestone said, adding increased reliability makes technology what he called “bankable."
“If you’re a developer and you want to use particular technology, if it’s been tested and certified, you can get financing to build a project,” Firestone said.
The partners are also working on technological innovations to produce the next generation of offshore wind turbines. “But we’re not just focused on the turbine, we’re looking at the foundation and other aspects that would bring costs down,” he said.
Lowering market barriers for new entrants in offshore wind energy would be another goal. “We’re going to gain permitting for the project and put in the basic infrastructure, such as the cables to shore and interconnections. We would also get a contract to sell the electricity, and companies could come in and test their wares,” Firestone said.
He said start-up ventures would save money by eliminating the cost of setting up a real-world test platform, instead paying a usage fee.
Firestone said the project would also work to lower social, environmental and regulatory barriers to alternative energy technologies. “Environmental innovation and having a better understanding of environmental effects is an area where the university has some experience,” he said.
“One of the long-term goals is economic development and U.S. job creation,” Firestone said.
Firestone said the proposal identifies a possible Atlantic Ocean site, not one in the Delaware Bay.
“It’s a small project, fewer than 10 wind turbines. Its use would be open to all. We’re not trying to advance one company’s technology over another’s. It would be a national offshore wind test site,” he said.
He said Energy Department isn’t giving grants but instead would enter cooperative agreements with projects it funds.
Firestone said the University of Delaware is the nation’s leading offshore wind energy academic-research institution, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst is also a frontrunner and he has heard about a few other proposals.
There’s a project in Ohio in the Great Lakes; one involving floating wind turbines in deep water off Maine’s coast; Fisherman’s Energy deep-water wind site off Atlantic City, N.J.; and projects offshore from Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.
Firestone said all other proposals he knows about have more commercial focus than the UD/NREL project.
He said graphics showing a conceptual view of the offshore site have not yet been developed, but they would be if the project were funded. Firestone said properly depicting the size and scale of the proposed site is tricky.
“We want to be able to produce those images in a way people could access them and be able to see them accurately,” he said.
Delaware delegation urges offshore wind project support
Delaware’s congressional delegation has urged Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu, to support the proposal submitted by University of Delaware/National Renewable Energy Lab.
“As a result of its design, we expect the UD/NREL offshore wind test site will advance the knowledge base of not only innovative offshore wind technology, but also serve to lower nonmarket barriers, such as social and environmental, that have proven substantial for the offshore wind industry,” wrote Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons, and Rep. John Carney in an Aug. 21 letter. All are Democrats.
The delegation said Gov. Jack Markell supports the project, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Siemens Corp., Gamesa Technologies, Vestas, Port of Wilmington and Delmarva Power.
Delaware’s geographical position at the center of the Mid-Atlantic region is where the offshore wind industry believes there is the greatest near-term potential for offshore wind development, wrote the delegation.
“The project would be capable of not only testing wind turbines, but would also conduct research on other key components such as structural foundations and transmission lines bringing electricity to shore,” the delegation wrote.
The delegation said other benefits and advantages of the UD/NREL offshore wind test site include:
• Providing the public with performance data and generating a return on taxpayers’ investment throughout five years, with the project becoming self sufficient in 2017.
• Enabling tests of wind power technologies that, while high risk, carry high potential rewards that might otherwise be left on drawing tables.
• Complementing federal investments in a drive train test facility in South Carolina and a large blade test facility in Massachusetts.
• Offering a strategic location, central to the Department of Interior's designated offshore wind power development areas.