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Technical report: offshore wind grid is the answer

The solution to offshore wind energy obstacles lies in pooling all the power into one common electricity grid, according to researchers at the University of Delaware and Stony Brook University. “We hypothesize that wind power output could be stabilized if wind generators were located in a meteorologically designed configuration and electrically connected,” say the authors of the report “Electric power from offshore wind via synoptic-scale interconnection.” It’s a brave hypothesis, one that reflects the efforts being made over the Atlantic with the European Supergrid. PES presents the research…

Using hard data from 11 meteorological stations, the group tracked hourly how much wind blew over the last five years across a 2,500-kilometer area of the US East Coast, and where it was consistently the strongest offshore. The scientists then created a theoretical wind grid based on the real-world wind behavior. It showed that had a wind grid existed over the last five years it would have neither reached full power nor reached an all-time low, but provided a steady source of electricity.

Despite seasonal shifts up and down in output from each individual offshore wind farm, the connected system allowed for a manageable stable power source, according to the results of the study.

The group concurred with the assertions that harnessing just two-thirds of the offshore wind power that potentially exists off the US northeast coast could provide household electricity from Massachusetts to North Carolina, as well as electricity for lightweight vehicle fuel and building heat for those areas. But the group also agreed that offshore wind is challenging because of wind’s naturally intermittent nature, and the expense of building and managing utility-scale storage for an intermittent energy source.

The group studied transmission versus utility-scale storage, and found that transmission between farms along a common grid was far more economical despite an initial cost layout to connect the Atlantic offshore wind farms with 3-gigawatt High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) submarine cables.

The scientists’ theoretical build was based on placing wind farms at strategic meteorological points, and the transmission grid being placed to optimize energy sharing and efficiency. By this criteria, both the farms and transmission lines ended up being primarily placed in federal waters.


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