Linking Offshore Wind Farms Would Provide Consistent East Coast Power

Offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Coast of the US could provide more consistent power output, if they are linked together, according to newly published research.

Researchers from the University of Delaware and Stony Brook University analyzed five years of wind observations from 11 monitoring stations along the U.S. East Coast from Florida to Maine. Based on wind speeds at each location, they estimated electrical power output from a hypothetical five-megawatt offshore turbine. After analyzing the patterns of wind energy among the stations along the coast, the team explored the seasonal effects on power output.

Their findings suggest that thoughtful design of offshore wind power projects
minimize the impacts of local weather on power fluctuations.

“Our analysis shows that when transmission systems will carry power from renewable sources, such as wind, they should be designed to consider large-scale meteorology, including the prevailing movement of high- and low-pressure systems,” said lead author Willett Kempton, UD professor of marine policy in
UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Brian Colle, associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, explained the ideal configuration: “A north-south transmission geometry fits nicely with the storm track that shifts northward or southward along the U.S. East Coast on a weekly or seasonal time scale,” he said. “Because then at any one time a high or low pressure system is likely to be producing wind (and thus power) somewhere along the coast.”

The researchers found that each hypothetical power generation site exhibited the expected ups and downs, but when they simulated a power line connecting them, the overall power output was smoothed so that maximum or minimum output was rare. In the particular five-year period studied, the power output of the simulated grid never stopped completely. 

Reducing the severity of wind power fluctuations would allow sufficient
time for power suppliers to ramp up or down power production from other
energy sources as needed. Solutions that reduce power fluctuations also
are important if wind is to displace significant amounts of
carbon-emitting energy sources.

The research is published in the April 5 issue of the Proceedings of
National Academy of Sciences

No wind turbines are presently located in U.S. waters, although projects have been proposed off the coasts of several Atlantic states.

Nine European nations are working together to build an offshore power
similar to the one hypothesized in this study.

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