UD hosts North American Wind Energy Academy’s international conference

With a wind turbine at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes — which has been in operation since 2010 and supplies all of the energy for the campus — as well as being home to the Center for Research in Wind (CReW), the University of Delaware has long been a leader in the field of wind energy research.

Because of this, UD was proud to welcome experts in wind energy as it hosted the 2022 North American Wind Energy Academy (NAWEA)/WindTech Conference from Sept. 20-22 at Clayton Hall.

Before the conference officially kicked off, a graduate student symposium was held at Clayton Hall on Monday, Sept. 19, sponsored by the European Academy of Wind Energy (EAWE).

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, guests were welcomed by conference organizers Cristina Archer, professor and Unidel Howard Cosgrove Career Development Chair in Environment in UD’s Departments of Geography and Spatial Sciences and Mechanical Engineering and the director of CReW, and Paul Veers, a senior research fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

In addition to welcoming remarks by Archer and Veers, the keynote ceremony kicking off the conference included four speakers: Delaware Senator Tom Carper, UD Provost Laura Carlson, Fabrice Veron, interim dean of the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment (CEOE), and Jeremy Firestone, former CReW director and one of the faculty members instrumental in the construction of UD’s wind turbine.

Archer said the conference had a fantastic turnout, with more than 240 people in attendance.

“It was exciting to get together again in person after three years of social distancing and Zoom,” Archer said. “During the breaks, people were networking and talking and discussing their results, which seemed to be very advanced because a lot of progress was made since the last time people spoke to one another.”

Because the U.S. Senate was in session, Carper addressed the audience via a pre-recorded video message, in which he mentioned that as Delaware is the lowest lying state in the country, the effects of climate change can be witnessed firsthand.

“In Delaware, we don’t have to look far to see the effects of climate change. They’re already happening in our own backyard,” said Carper who noted that stronger storms continue to batter the Delaware coast, referencing record flooding from Hurricane Ida in 2021 that impacted the City of Wilmington.

Carper said that in adversity lies opportunity and when it comes to climate change, offshore wind presents an opportunity to bring clean energy to the United States.

“We now have a president who believes America should invest in offshore wind as a resource, and we have an administration that hopes we can do so,” said Carper, adding that President Biden has plans to generate 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power — enough electricity to power more than 10 million homes — by the year 2030.

Carlson welcomed conference participants to UD and highlighted the Lewes wind turbine as a prime example of the University’s commitment to advancing research and developing new technologies.

“We’re pleased that our wind turbine provides 100% of the Lewes campus electricity and the excess energy feeds the local electric grid,” Carlson said. “Additionally the UD wind turbine provides research opportunities in the areas of turbine corrosion, avian impacts and policy issues related to renewable energy. This conference adds a new dimension to our shared commitment to renewable energy. We’re grateful for your scholarship and your leadership in the field of wind energy. The world needs your expertise, and the University of Delaware along with the UD Center for Research in Wind hope that this gathering inspires your work.”

Veron highlighted CEOE’s commitment to renewable energy, particularly offshore wind research, and talked about how CReW offers a one-week Offshore Wind Skills Academy geared towards professionals in offshore wind or entering the industry. He also highlighted how CReW is committed to partnering with industry professionals to help advance offshore wind technologies.

“A lot of work is going on with the college and at the University, and there is a lot of work going on in the offshore wind industry and all over the nation,” said Veron. “I’m very happy that we’ll get to hear a lot of new discoveries and applied work happening in your industry.”

The conference was broken up into six tracks, five of which had plenary sessions:

  • Track One focused on electrical grid integration;
  • Track Two focused on the social/environmental aspects of wind energy;
  • Track Three focused on offshore wind, including design solutions and modeling analysis;
  • Track Four focused on wind turbine and wind plants;
  • Track Five focused on atmospheric and ocean science for wind energy; and
  • Track Six focused on the application of and education in wind energy.

In addition to parallel sessions in the individual tracks, there were also plenary talks where all the participants gathered to hear from select speakers. The plenary talks were broadcast live and available for free via Zoom; the recorded videos will be posted shortly on the NAWEA website.

The plenary talks in Track One highlighted grid integration, focusing on the major aspects of the electrical system environment in which a wind plant will have to operate, especially as the energy transition progresses from a fossil fuel-dominated system to one much more heavily dependent on wind, solar and batteries.

The plenary talks in Track Two, led by Jeremy Firestone, also a professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy, and Bonnie Ram, associate director for strategic initiatives with CReW, addressed the social, cultural, and environmental aspects of wind power development.

As wind power is installed at larger and larger scales, social dimensions present challenges that demand a prominent place in research funding and translating this research into more robust public engagement.  The topic of environmental justice for American Indian Tribal nations was explored, underscoring the need for greater sensitivity to the history of settler colonialism, culture and language, project names, and ownership opportunities of wind projects at sea. Lastly, the need to close the knowledge gaps on environmental risks at the landscape level and integrate mitigation strategies into wind technology design was also discussed.

The Track Three’s panel focused on the different developmental stages of offshore wind, such as floating offshore wind platforms and the work needed to address immediate infrastructure needs as well as long-term research to continue to drive innovation. New initiatives by the U.S. Department of Energy were also presented with the hope that they will lower the cost of floating offshore wind by 70% by 2035. One of those pathways is understanding how to leverage the positive impacts the controller can make on load reduction and increased power.

Track Four’s plenary talks highlighted boundary layer turbulence and wind energy systems controls — specifically, the effects of turbulence on wind farms and the accomplishments and emerging opportunities in controls, including control co-design of extreme-size turbines — up to 50 megawatts — with innovative flexible blades, inspired by palm trees.

The panelists in Track Five looked at air-sea interactions and their implications for offshore wind, as well as the impact of the mechanics of ocean waves on marine atmospheric turbulent boundary layers; simulating and characterizing the spatial and temporal evolution of the atmospheric boundary layer at the land-sea interface; and measurements for offshore wind energy, in particular dual-doppler radar measurements of the coastal gradient impacts on an offshore wind farm.

Overall, Archer said she was thrilled with how the conference turned out.

“The sessions ran smoothly — the session chairs did a great job — and the participants were engaged,” said Archer. “Clayton Hall was such a perfect venue — with an awesome staff — for this kind of mid-size event, with parallel as well as plenary sessions and the banquet we held at Deerfield Golf Club was outstanding. The NAWEA/WindTech 2022 conference would not have been so successful without the support of numerous sponsors. I want to give a big thank you to USWindØrstedEAWECEOE, and CReW.”

Article by Adam Thomas | Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson | October 04, 2022