Sure, the potential for offshore wind power is abundant. But what can we do to make it more reliable, and thus, more realistic in terms of development? According to a paper by researchers from the University of Delaware and Stony Brook University, published in the April 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offshore wind power output can be made more consistent by choosing locations that take advantage of regional weather patterns and by connecting wind power generators with a shared power line.
Due to natural fluctuations in wind direction and strength, most of today’s off shore wind turbines suffer from inconsistent output. But researchers determined that given the right location and ideal configuration of turbine and transmission lines, this can change. Dr. Brian Colle, associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, noted, in a statement, “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.” According to Colle, this is because, in this scenario, a high or low pressure system is likely to be producing wind (and thus power) somewhere along the coast at any given time.
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; based on wind speeds at each location, they estimated electrical power output from a hypothetical five-megawatt offshore turbine. They found that while these hypothetical power generation stations exhibited the expected ups and downs in terms of the seasons, a simulated power line connecting them smoothed out the overall power output so that maximum or minimum output was rare. Although no off shore wind turbines are currently located off U.S. coasts, that’s a factor that’s about to change, and this research could prove useful as more East Coast project sites are selected for development.