After many years of debates, delays, and controversies, offshore wind is about to expand in a big way in the United States. The White House has announced the goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind – enough to power 90 million homes – along the East Coast seaboard by 2030.
In New York State, there are now five offshore wind projects in active development. The state goal is to have nearly a gigawatt of offshore wind by 2035, enough to power over 4 million homes.
These projects involve the use of thousands of physically large, high-capacity wind turbines deployed over large areas at an unprecedented scale. Such mammoth installations bring with them unique problems.
Low-turbulence conditions over water lead to the fact that individual wind farms will experience each other’s wake (the disturbance of their airflow) even when turbine arrays are 15 to 50 miles apart. As a result, turbines may fatigue earlier, and groups of turbines may experience up to 30% lower power production due to wake effects.
Industry trends are causing an increased probability of large wake-induced energy losses within individual wind farms and an increasing probability of wake interactions.
These issues have been studied in new research published by researchers at Cornell University. The research presents simulations that may be helpful to optimize turbine spacing in the ongoing deployments and assist plans for future ones. Improved understanding of wind turbine and wind-farm wake is essential in ensuring that the financial investments in offshore wind result in electricity-generation goals met at the lowest possible cost.
According to Department of Energy studies, offshore wind resources around the United States could potentially generate more electricity than the entire country currently uses.
Scientists bring efficiency to expanding offshore wind energy
Photo, posted August 9, 2016, courtesy of Lars Plougmann via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.