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View of the SAFL building from the river

The University of Minnesota was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop high-resolution computational algorithms for simulating offshore wind turbines and farms.

The project is a collaborative effort between Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Minnesota EOLOS Wind Energy Research Consortium, established by the Department of Energy’s Office for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The grant is part of total of $43 million awarded by the DOE to spur offshore wind energy over the next five years. As part of developing a national energy strategy, the DOE seeks to reduce the cost of wind energy through technology development to ensure competitiveness with other sources of electrical generation. In addition, the agency strives to reduce deployment times and uncertainties that currently limit the development of offshore wind projects.

“Until now, wind energy research by St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and the EOLOS consortium has centered around land-based wind energy. This project expands our research into offshore wind,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Director of SAFL and James L. Record Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota. “This is significant because offshore wind is a critical piece of the puzzle for reaching the national goal of 20 percent of electricity from wind by 2030.”

Over the next three years, the project seeks to develop and validate state-of-the-art computational tools capable of simulating atmospheric turbulence and wave effects in offshore wind farms.  It will provide the industry with powerful computational tools for improving the design of offshore turbines and floating platforms, and for optimizing the layout of offshore wind farms. “Ultimately our computational tools will help reduce the cost of energy and enhance the reliability of offshore wind projects,” said Sotiropoulos.

Sotiropoulos is the principal investigator of the project, working in collaboration with Department of Civil Engineering Professor Michele Guala, and SAFL research associates Dr. Leonardo Chamorro and Seokkoo Kang, and postdoctoral associate Dr. Xiaolei Yang. Investigators from Sandia National Laboratories include Dr. Matthew Barone and Rich Jepsen.

“This was an extremely competitive national award,” said Sotiropoulos of the $1.2 million DOE grant. “Getting selected is a testament to the computational excellence of SAFL and that of our partner, Sandia National Laboratories.” It also highlights the impact SAFL’s unique laboratory facilities, such as the main channel and wind tunnel, as well as the new EOLOS wind turbine field site in Rosemount, Minnesota, can make when coupled with state-of-art simulation-based research.

In addition to the DOE funds, $120,000 of additional funding is being contributed by the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE). SAFL and the College of Science and Engineering will also contribute funds toward the purchase of a massively parallel computer cluster, which will be used to run the numerical simulations. Additional computational resources will be provided by the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.


Feature Photo Credit: Andy Dingley, via Wikimedia Commons