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NREL Supports Innovative Offshore Wind Energy Projects

July 29, 2014

In December 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would fund seven offshore wind demonstration projects as part of an effort to launch an offshore wind industry in the United States. In this initial phase, each of the seven companies received $4 million in funding to complete the engineering, design, and permitting plans for an offshore demonstration project. At the end of the initial planning phase, the projects would be evaluated and the three most promising would be selected to advance to the second phase of the demonstration, which includes follow-on design, fabrication, and deployment to achieve commercial operation by 2017. Since then, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been working with six of the seven projects, providing economic analysis, modeling, and test plan development support.

On May 7, 2014, DOE announced that three of the projects assisted by NREL were selected for phase two of the demonstration project and will be eligible for up to $46.7 million in additional funding over the next 4 years: Dominion Virginia Power, Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey, and Principle Power, Inc.

Dominion will install two 6-megawatt (MW) direct-drive wind turbines 26 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach on an innovative twisted-jacket foundation designed by Keystone Engineering of Louisiana. Twisted-jacket foundations cost less and are easier to manufacture and install than traditional offshore foundations. Dominion’s project will demonstrate installation, operation, and maintenance methods for wind turbines located far from shore.

Fishermen’s Energy will also use the twisted-jacket foundation for the five 5-MW turbines it plans to install 3 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Fishermen’s will act as a laboratory for researchers to learn about offshore wind and investigate interactions between turbines.

Principle Power will install five 6-MW direct-drive turbines in deeper water 18 miles off the coast of Coos Bay, Oregon. These turbines will utilize the semisubmersible foundation designed by Principle Power (WindFloat) for wind turbines deployed in deep water. More than 60% of the offshore wind resources within 50 nautical miles of the U.S. coasts are located in deep water—where traditional bottom-fixed foundations cannot be used. The floating foundations will be constructed on land and then towed out to sea where they will be anchored to the seabed with cables. Constructing the foundations on shore reduces the cost of energy by avoiding the need for the costly vessels required for offshore construction.

As the three demonstration projects move into this second phase of development, NREL will continue to provide the technical analysis and support they need to achieve their project’s end goals. DOE and NREL will also continue to provide support for two additional projects that received initial planning awards in 2012: the University of Maine and Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCO). The University of Maine developed an innovative concrete semisubmersible foundation and LEEDCO developed a monopile foundation to reduce ice loading.

—Kelly Yaker