The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Delaware (UD) announced they will work to facilitate the potential establishment of a test site for commercial wind turbines off the Delaware coast.

Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) worth $500,000 over the next five years, UD will work with federal and state agencies to identify and meet criteria for establishing any potential offshore test sites. Public involvement is expected to be a key part of the process.
Commercial offshore wind-turbine components can be tested separately on land, but before installing multiple full-scale commercial turbines, it is prudent for researchers and industry to study one or a small number of complete turbine systems at sites that will expose the turbines to typical offshore conditions, such as salt water, mist, wind gusts and weather events, such as nor’easters.

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 United States. The partners expect that any test turbines would serve as valuable classrooms used to train future wind-energy professionals, scientists and engineers.

“By combining the university’s educational expertise with NREL’s wind-technology expertise, we can train future wind-energy professionals to provide a skilled work force for the offshore wind industry,” said Walt Musial, senior project lead at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center.
“This agreement complements the research and educational opportunities afforded by the coastal wind turbine we recently established at the college’s Lewes, Del., campus,” said Nancy Targett, dean of UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

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 will, in turn, reduce maintenance, help increase offshore wind-energy deployment, and increase employment for U.S. manufacturing jobs.