File this one under W for What else can President* Trump lose at? The nation’s top inspector of underground bunkers sailed into the Oval Office on the promise of bringing back coal jobs, only to tank the entire US coal industry in less than four years. That’s a rather interesting legacy for the world’s biggest fan of fossil fuels to leave behind, but the worst is yet to come as a new offshore wind initiative revs up to speed under his very nose.
The National Offshore Wind Research & Development Corporation
The US offshore wind industry started off with great ambition and a generous shot of adrenaline from the Obama administration, only to sink under the weight of political considerations (looking at you, Chris Christie).
When Obama left office the US offshore industry was drifting in the doldrums. To this day, there is still only one offshore wind farm in operation in US waters, with five turbines adding up to just 20 megawatts.
For the sake of comparison, check out Scotland — it has almost 1 gigawatt under its belt already and another 4 gigawatts in the pipeline, including a 1.14 gigawatt offshore project that could be operational as soon as 2022.
It is with some irony, then, that the US offshore wind industry has been making up for lost time all throughout the Trump administration, with a considerable amount of help from his own Department of Energy.
A key step in the wind power ramp-up occurred during Trump’s very first year in office, when the Department of Energy set out to establish something called the National Offshore Wind Research And Development Consortium. By 2018 the not-for-profit organization was up and running under the leadership of New York State, which is plowing ahead on an ambitious offshore plan of its own.
The Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Revolution Is Here
Gosh, if Trump stays in office another four years he will likely preside over the construction — and operation — of hundreds of offshore turbines. And, many of these are not likely to be just any old offshore turbines.
The new Consortium already has its eye on floating offshore wind turbines. That’s interesting because the US has barely gotten started on conventional fixed-platform turbines, and already it has an eye on cutting edge floating turbine technology.
Earlier this month the Consortium released details on 12 awards for offshore wind R&D, and at least four of them deal directly with floating wind turbines. A fifth one involve semi-submersible technology. They are:
Demonstration of Shallow-Water Mooring Components for FOWTs (ShallowFloat), Principle Power, Inc.
Design and Certification of Taut-synthetic Moorings for Floating Wind Turbines, University of Maine
Dual-Functional Tuned Inerter Damper for Enhanced Semi-Sub Offshore Wind Turbine, Virginia Tech University
Innovative Anchoring System for Floating Offshore Wind, Triton Systems, Inc
Techno-Economic Mooring Configuration and Design for Floating Offshore Wind, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Sealing The Beginning Of The End For Coal
Last year, the University of Massachusetts won funding from the Energy Department’s cutting edge research office ARPA-E for open source software aimed at controlling floating offshore turbines.
Triton Systems is a diversified, cutting edge technology company making its way into renewable energy technology, so there’s that.
If you have any idea what’s up with Virginia Tech, drop us a note in the comment thread.
All of this is by way of saying that the foundational research of today is setting up the US wind industry for rapid growth tomorrow, at the expense of coal and natural gas, too.
In related news, now that wind development along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts is under way, earlier this year the Energy Department pitched offshore wind development to the tune of a potential 508 gigawatts in the Gulf of Mexico, so stay tuned for more on that.
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Photo: via Aqua Ventus.