“Imagine a world in which half of our electricity is generated renewably by offshore wind farms,” as a recent article by Shayla Costa '19 posed in Research Next. “Now imagine a powerful hurricane hitting the coast where that farm is located. If developers, engineers, and policy makers haven’t prepared for this event, the coast could face major consequences such as blackouts and brownouts.”
As Costa wrote, this is a scenario that Sanjay R. Arwade, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMass Amherst, is working to guard against as offshore wind becomes more prominent in the U.S. market.
“Offshore wind is a huge opportunity for the U.S., particularly on the East Coast,” Arwade said in the article, “but along the East Coast of the United States, there are hurricane risks, an issue we know how to model and mitigate. It’s just going to take the research work to make sure we do development right.”
Costa wrote that UMass Amherst has the necessary tools and experts to take on the research problems posed by offshore wind.
The campus is home to the Wind Energy Center (WEC), where much of these risk assessments are studied, and UMass researchers contributed extensively to a recently-published offshore wind assessment and recommendation report by the Massachusetts Research Partnership in Offshore Wind (Three Engineering Professors Help Craft Influential Report on Offshore Wind Energy).
As the report suggested, Massachusetts could be a leader in U.S. offshore wind development. Arwade, a member of WEC and a co-author of the report, has led a team of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to run extensive simulations and experiments to determine the risks posed by hurricanes.
“A lot of what we’re doing is putting together components of research that are well understood on their own but haven't been linked in meaningful ways,” Arwade told Research Next. “People know how to do the analysis of offshore structures, from the oil and gas industry in the U.S. to the offshore wind industry in Europe. People to a large extent know how to model hurricanes, but what hasn’t been done is to put those two things together.”
Costa wrote that the work being done by Arwade and other experts at UMass Amherst “is important for the future of offshore wind in Massachusetts. The campus is prepared to take the lead in research, with many recommendations included in the report.”
“We can't afford to have this industry be harmed by unexpected failures,” concluded Arwade. (May 2019)