Texas windfall

$3.3 million goes to UT Dallas researcher Dr. Todd Griffith

Dr. Todd Griffith, Associate Professor – Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas, Dalllas, has worked on an offshore turbine design for years, Now a substantial grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will help move his technology forward.

As described in a press release from the university, Griffith and his team have developed a floating turbine that, by capturing the wind over deep sea waters, “offers the potential to become one of the country’s largest renewable energy sources.”

The Department of Energy estimates that state and federal waters along the U.S. coasts and the Great Lakes could generate twice the amount of energy generated by all of the nation’s electric power plants combined. One of the biggest barriers to harvesting that energy has been the high cost of deploying wind turbines in deeper water, where floating platforms are required. Griffith’s project aims to lower the cost and overcome challenges with installation and connecting to existing energy grids with underwater cables.

The design is also “groundbreaking” in many respects:

Griffith’s design is radically different from a traditional three-blade horizontal axis wind turbine. It is called a vertical axis wind turbine and has vertical blades and axis of rotation, rather than horizontal, and looks more like an upended eggbeater than a pinwheel. The platform, which is smaller than traditional platforms, sits partly above the ocean’s surface and partly below, like a ship. It is attached to the sea floor with cables rather than anchored directly to the sea floor under ocean depths of at least 200 feet. The generator and controls are on the platform, providing greater stability and facilitating easier maintenance.

The turbine blades would rise between 600 feet and 700 feet above the ocean’s surface but could reach as high as 900 feet. Griffith said the turbines would not obstruct ocean views because they would be at least 20 miles from the coast, past the horizon.

Thanks to a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Griffith will now be able to design and build a prototype for the floating offshore wind turbine he’s envisioned.  The new grant is part of a $26 million funding initiative from ARPA-E, The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).  Twelve additional projects will also receive ARPA-E funding.

Many additional details at the link.


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