New Research Grant on Offshore Wind Farms

Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Andrew Myers, Professor and Chair Jerry Hajjar, and Sanjay Arwade, Associate Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMass Amherst, have received a new $325,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation on Reliability-based Hurricane Risk Assessment for Offshore Wind Farms. This grant provides funding for fundamental research into the assessment of hurricane-associated risk to offshore wind farms, particularly those located in the Atlantic Ocean. The researchers will develop a probabilistic hurricane hazard model for characterizing the effects of hurricanes off the Atlantic coast, and will investigate approaches to characterizing likely damage that may occur across entire wind farms in the event of a large wind storm. They will also investigate novel strategies for the design of wind turbine support structures subjected to hurricanes to overcome current barriers to large-scale offshore wind energy development.

Source: News @ Northeastern

The United States has set a goal of gen­er­ating 54 gigawatts of off­shore wind energy by 2030 — enough to power tens of mil­lions of Amer­ican homes. But in order to reach that goal, experts must first over­come a variety of lim­i­ta­tions, including the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of wind farms in hurricanes.

Andrew Myers, an assis­tant pro­fessor of civil and envi­ron­mental engi­neering at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, has been awarded a $325,000 grant from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion to develop a series of struc­tural models that can pre­dict how vul­ner­able wind farms are to hur­ri­canes. Hur­ri­cane fre­quency, inten­sity and their effect on the envi­ron­ment will all be fac­tored into the models.

Jerry Hajjar, chair of Northeastern’s Depart­ment of Civil and Envi­ron­mental Engi­neering, and Sanjay Arwade, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of engi­neering at the Uni­ver­sity of Mass­a­chu­setts at Amherst, will serve as the grant’s co-​​principal investigators.

The U.S., said Myers, does not cur­rently have any off­shore wind farms. This defi­ciency is in stark con­trast to our Euro­pean neigh­bors, who have thou­sands of tur­bines dec­o­rating their coastlines.

But the envi­ron­ment off the coast of Europe is sig­nif­i­cantly dif­ferent from that off the Atlantic coast, where hur­ri­canes pose a major con­cern. “Insur­ance com­pa­nies need to know the risk to these struc­tures to give them a better idea for how to price risk appro­pri­ately,” said Myers, who has con­ducted sim­ilar research on onshore tur­bines with respect to earth­quake vulnerability.

Myers will focus his research on the variety of sup­port struc­tures that can be used in the off­shore set­ting. These include monopile sup­ports, in which the tur­bine shaft bur­rows into the ground below the water; jack­eted and tripod sup­ports, which include a truss leg struc­ture around the tur­bine shaft; and floating tur­bines, which are teth­ered to the ground with steel cables.

Each of these designs can borrow from the exten­sive tech­nical expe­ri­ence of the oil and gas industry, but, Myers said, “both the dynamics of off­shore wind tur­bines and the envi­ron­ment are dif­ferent, as most of the oil and gas struc­tures are located in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Atlantic Coast will likely be the site of the nation’s first off­shore wind farm, Myers said, because of “shallow water, good wind resources and prox­imity to pop­u­la­tion cen­ters.” This, he noted, means that we need to under­stand the intri­ca­cies of the wind farm’s envi­ron­ment before real­izing the 54-​​gigawatt goal.

Myers hopes his research will inform design guide­lines spe­cific to the North Amer­ican envi­ron­ment. “One of the major issues is that the inter­na­tional design stan­dard does not explic­itly con­sider hur­ri­canes,” he said. “They simply say that this sit­u­a­tion deserves spe­cial consideration.”

“Wind energy is more expen­sive than it has to be because of the uncer­tainty in the finan­cial risk,” he added. “I see this as an unnec­es­sary bar­rier to renew­able energy.”

Myers’ study of the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of non­tra­di­tional, renew­able energy struc­tures aligns with Northeastern’s focus on use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity and sustainability.

Related Faculty: Andrew T. Myers, Jerome F. Hajjar

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering