With a three-year, $300,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is studying the feasibility of placing large wind turbines on deep-ocean platforms.
The research, which combines computer simulations and water tank studies using physical models, may point the way toward an environmentally friendly source of energy that could potentially fill a significant portion of the electricity needs of 26 coastal states, according to WPI.
‘Before deepwater turbines can be developed and successfully deployed, a host of questions must be answered so that they can be appropriately designed,’ says David J. Olinger, associate professor of mechanical engineering at WPI and co-principal investigator on the project. ‘How should they be transported to installation sites? What combination of platform and buoy designs – together with mooring solutions – will best stand up to major storms and large wave heights? How will environmental conditions vary from one ocean site to another?’
To address these and other questions, Olinger and his team are combining computer simulations with experimental modeling. The WPI team is exposing scale models of deep-ocean platforms to simulated environmental conditions in the water flume test facilities at the Alden Research Laboratory in Holden, Mass.
The team has examined towing and transportation conditions. The impact of severe wave conditions on the scale models will be tested later. When the entire project is complete, Olinger aims to have a computer simulation program capable of testing a wide range of design types and potential environmental conditions.
SOURCE: Worcester Polytechnic Institute