The two groups will work under a Cooperative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) worth US$500,000 over the next five years, to facilitate the potential establishment of a test site off the coast of Delaware. UD will work with federal and state agencies to identify and meet criteria for establishing any potential offshore test sites.

Commercial components for offshore wind turbines can be tested on land but, before installing multiple full-scale commercial wind turbines, DoE wants researchers and industry to study complete systems at sites which will expose the wind turbines to typical offshore conditions, such as salt water and mist, wind gusts, and weather events.

Wind turbines could serve as future classrooms

As part of the planning and development of a potential offshore wind turbine test site, NREL and UD will develop test procedures specific to the area’s harsh offshore wind environment, and establish methods for predicting wind energy costs in the USA. The partners expect that any test wind turbines would serve as valuable classrooms used to train future wind energy professionals, scientists and engineers.

“This agreement complements the research and educational opportunities afforded by the coastal wind turbine we recently established at the college’s Lewes campus,” says Nancy Targett of UD’s College of Earth, Ocean & Environment. “We are excited to partner with NREL on technology that will be part of tomorrow’s economy.”

“By combining the university’s educational expertise with NREL’s wind technology expertise, we can train future wind energy professionals to provide a skilled workforce for the offshore wind industry,” adds Walt Musial of NREL’s National Wind Technology Center.

Should the potential offshore wind turbine test site become a reality, the studies designed by NREL and UD will generate the knowledge and information needed to improve the performance, reliability and cost-effectiveness of offshore wind power. Those improvements could, in turn, reduce maintenance, help increase offshore wind energy deployment, and increase employment for US manufacturing jobs.