Northeastern Hosts Offshore Wind Tech Week
“A manufacturing initiative of this size is both monumental and rare in recent decades,” said Jerome F. Hajjar, CDM Smith Professor and Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University. “The expertise and knowledge needed to develop this are huge.” Hajjar was not speaking of a tech product or a novel pandemic response but of the rapid scale-up of US offshore wind energy capacity. As both a researcher and co-chair of the first-ever Offshore Wind Tech Week at Northeastern University, Hajjar was both impressed and encouraged by the growing cohort of academics, startups, industry leaders, and government agencies converging on this critical topic. “Boston is a fitting setting for this unique week of events,” he explained, citing various state and federal initiatives to install offshore wind farms, as well as his own past research with Associate Professor and Offshore Wind Tech Week co-chair Andy Myers on the East Coast’s enormous wind potential.
Offshore Wind Tech Week: December 5-8, 2022
Offshore Wind Tech Week is the unique combination of two multi-day events, the NOWRDC Symposium and IOWTC 2022. The National Offshore Wind Research & Development Consortium (NOWRDC), a non-profit that funds US offshore wind R&D activities, kicked off the week with a keynote speech from former US Rep. Joe Kennedy III and opening remarks from Kevin Knobloch, the Symposium Chair and Acting Executive Director of NOWRDC. The meeting gathered NOWRDC-funded researchers for a two-day discussion of their projects and progress. The week continued with the 4th International Offshore Wind Technical Conference (IOWTC 2022) from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) with Prof. Myers serving as technical chair and Prof. Krish Sharman from UMass Amherst serving as conference chair. The conference brought together international experts in academia, government, and industry for sessions on engineering, design, and project development. “These events are critical to advancing offshore wind power, given both the ambitious installation goals set by governments and the engineering innovations needed to meet them,” said Myers. “Interdisciplinary research in engineering and manufacturing, as well as developments in transmission and supply-chain logistics are needed to harness the enormous potential for renewable energy just offshore.”
Ambitious Goals and Exciting Challenges
Myers and Hajjar have long advocated for the expansion of offshore wind on the East Coast, which has the potential capacity to power the entire US. “We need a large amount of research to achieve government goals of 30GW by 2030,” said Hajjar, explaining that this would constitute an increase over the current installed capacity by several orders. “Geography is critical here — how deep is the ocean at the installation site? Is it conducive to fixed-bottom turbines or are floating turbines necessary? The East Coast sees frequent hurricanes, and their powerful winds are a potential threat to the structural integrity of turbine towers.” Hajjar, whose research also covers earthquake engineering, has highlighted the need for expanded hurricane design guidelines for turbines similar to what has been developed over the past few decades for buildings in seismic zones.
“The Pacific states face their own challenges,” Myers pointed out, “Considering the ocean depth of the West Coast, floating turbines will be necessary. We need more research into the development of floating platforms that are cost-effective and buildable at the rates we need.” Floating platforms represent a fraction of installed capacity compared to fixed-bottom turbines. According to a White House press release, just 0.1 GW of floating turbines are installed worldwide, compared to 50 GW of fixed-bottom offshore wind. “There’s a lot of exciting puzzles to solve,” said Myers, whose PhD student Raditya Danu Riyanto presented at IOWTC on their research into a novel floating turbine which can reorient itself to the wind direction. “We will need to resolve not just structural engineering problems, but logistical and supply chain issues such as how to deliver and install the massive components of turbine towers from the manufacturer to the point of deployment, and how to transmit the power back to homes and businesses.” “The offshore wind ecosystem is really critical right now, and Massachusetts is a leader in this space,” Hajjar said. “The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is committed to playing our part in this important and historic moment through research and academics in the field of structural sustainability.”