Transformative R&D Sets the Stage for Cleaner, More Secure Energy Future

The oceans, constituting waves on the water, winds above the water and currents beneath the surface, offer immense energy potential.

Although offshore wind energy (OSW) and marine renewable energy (MRE) industries in the United States are just developing, they are major reliable forms of low-carbon energy that can be advantageous to coastal communities and power the developing Blue Economy—which points to the sustainable utilization of ocean resources.

Alicia Gorton, ocean engineer
Alicia Gorton, ocean engineer (Image Credit: Andrea Starr | Pacific National Northwest Laboratory)

A special edition of the Marine Technology Society Journal, titled “Utilizing Offshore Resources for Renewable Energy Development,” concentrates on research and development (R&D) efforts among academia, industry and national laboratories, including Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), which can facilitate the progress of this renewable energy resource.

The edition was guest-edited by Alicia Gorton, a project manager and ocean engineer at PNNL.

The research presented in this special issue demonstrates that transformative R&D is setting the stage for a brighter, cleaner and more secure energy future. Winds and waves have powered human endeavors since the dawn of time and now they are helping usher us into a greener, renewable energy future.”

Alicia Gorton, Project Manager and Ocean Engineer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

In the foreword, Gorton and colleague Dorian Overhus mention that a review of renewable energy technologies from 2010 to 2016 identified that marine energy received the smallest investment of all, stressing an urgent need for more R&D to hasten modernization and commercialization in this field.

At the same time, studies continue to expose the resource potential in offshore waves, winds, tides and currents in the United States and other research is assessing how to handle probable challenges associated with harvesting ocean clean energy.

Marine Clean Energy Resources

The special edition comprises papers on resource potential and variability, models to assess the risk to seabed dynamics, technologies to convey data and energy to shore, measurement methods and in-water testing of MRE devices. One article analyzes the wind energy potential in the Gulf of Mexico and how to enhance installations for lower average wind speeds as well as hurricane resilience.

Two others analyze the variability of the Gulf Stream to assist the development of MRE resources off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and how some methods can fix performance expectations and measure wind variability at specific sites.

The cover story of the journal sheds light on lidar systems installed on buoys that measure wind speeds and other data at several relevant heights. Other articles deliberate over numerical modeling methods to measure the hazards of alterations to the seabed and sediment transport due to OSW development.

Two articles provide details related to the testing of MRE infrastructure to assess new technologies for performance and potential environmental influences. Another article reports on an advanced mooring technology that enables power transmission and data transfer to back OSW and MRE development.

Powering the Blue Economy

One segment of the special edition talks about alternate uses of marine energy sources to provide steady, dependable power to the Blue Economy. Thus far, MRE development has concentrated on driving the electric grid, but an increasing amount of work concentrates on delivering on-site power for maritime operations.

One article summarizes how clean marine energy can drive stationary and mobile platforms for ocean study. Another article describes the use of ammonia for storing wave energy. Improved energy storage at sea can drive marine shipping and underwater vehicles, as well as offer seasonal energy storage for Arctic exploration.

Cybersecurity for marine clean energy

Similar to any connected operational technology, OSW and MRE power generation and transmission are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Thus, it is crucial to ensure strong cybersecurity. Two articles in the special issue concentrate on cybersecurity and what developers have to do to attain cyber resilience for marine power systems, whether it is oceanic or wind energy.

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