Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Northeast offshore wind is more powerful than presumed

Delaware Public Media

Research from the University of Delaware reveals offshore wind in the northeast is more powerful and more turbulent than initially anticipated. The findings were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Knowing how intense offshore winds are can influence the placement of turbines harvesting energy from winds, said UD professor and wind energy expert Christina Archer. 

"Would you rather have a (wind) farm in unknown conditions or would you rather have a farm installed when you know exactly what the atmosphere is doing?" Archer said. "Once we know, we can act on the knowledge we have."

Once researchers understand the intensity of the offshore winds, they can space turbines at an effective distance away from each other, allowing the turbines to generate more energy. This is especially important as development of the first offshore wind farm in the United States continues off the coast of Rhode Island.

Archer and her co-researchers Dana Veron, Fabrice Veron, and Matthew Sienkiewicz from Stony Brook University, looked at data along the Cape Wind Tower in Cape Cod. Using data from 2003 to 2009, they found that the atmospheric conditions of the region are generally unstable, with very strong winds.

"That's very interesting because usually the winds over the ocean are not unstable," Archer said. "They are supposed to be neutral, but instead we found that between 60 and 80 percent of the time, they are unstable, meaning they vary very little with height and they are more turbulent than we expected." 

This contradicts data from European offshore wind farms in the Baltic and North Sea that shows the atmospheric conditions are neutral. Unstable wind conditions occur up to 20 percent of the time. 

Researchers are collecting data off of Delaware's coast to identify the exact conditions here. Archer said if Delaware were to develop an offshore wind farm, the state would be able to adopt cleaner energy, but it could ultimately benefit outside regions as well.

"The beauty of offshore wind, the beauty of renewable energy, is it doesn't necessarily benefit the location where the farm is," Archer said. "It benefits society in general, meaning that you are replacing polluting sources of electricity with clean sources of electricity. In a sense, everybody benefits, not just Delaware."

Delaware had been working on development of an offshore wind farm. However, the plans fell apart in 2011 when investment money fell through.

Related Content