The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a package of grants including $17m to support two innovative offshore wind demonstration projects and six national testing facilities working on research and development (R&D) programmes for the rapidly emerging sector.

Through the funding, the University of Maine (UMaine) will progress a novel floating substructure design for a 10–12MW turbine to replace a planned two-6MW unit project planned for deployment in the US Atlantic, while the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation will be backed to use state-of-the-art sensing technologies to map bird activity near its Icebreaker project in Lake Erie.

The R&D programmes to receive DOE funds are:

  • South Carolina’s Clemson University to improve offshore nacelle testing through a ‘hardware-in-the-loop’ system on the 7.5MW dynamometer on its drivetrain test rig;
  • Lehigh University in Pennsylvania to upgrade its soil-foundation interaction laboratory to model impacts of wind, waves and currents on offshore wind turbine structures;
  • The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center –which is about to start trials of a Haliade-X blade –to upgrade its technology testing facility to handle structural trials of up-to-120-metre-long rotor blades;
  • Oregon State University to develop wave-basin numerical models to simulate the impact of wind and waves on floating turbines;
  • Massachusetts’ Tufts University to quantify the effects of fatigue on the various marine concrete mixtures for turbine foundations; and
  • The University of Massachusetts–Lowell to develop a novel autonomous method of using measured acoustic pressure to detect degradation and damage to rotor blades.

“These projects will be instrumental in helping drive down technology costs and increasing consumer options for wind across the United States as part of our comprehensive energy portfolio,” said the DOE’s assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Daniel Simmons, announcing the awards at AWEA Offshore.

The latest DOE awards come in the wake of a series of grants given out as part of the DOE’s Atlantis (Aerodynamic Turbines Lighter and Afloat with Nautical Technologies and Integrated Servo-control) R&D programme, which included financing for the UMaine’s design of an ultra-lightweight concrete floating wind power concept with NASA-developed dampeners rockets, and a consortium headed by Principle Power that will sea-trial new digital twinning software tailored for deepwater wind operations.