Published: 16 December 2019 16 December 2019
University of Texas at Dallas researcher Dr. Todd Griffith has spent years working on an offshore turbine design that can convert those deep-ocean winds into electricity. Recently, Griffith received a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to take his technology to the next level. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) award provides support for his team to design and build a prototype for a floating offshore wind turbine.
Griffith’s design is different from a traditional three-blade horizontal axis wind turbine. It is called a vertical axis wind turbine and has vertical blades and axis of rotation, rather than horizontal. The platform, which is smaller than traditional platforms, sits partly above the ocean’s surface and partly below, like a ship. It is attached to the sea floor with cables rather than anchored directly to the sea floor under ocean depths of at least 200 feet. The generator and controls are on the platform, providing greater stability and facilitating easier maintenance. The turbine blades would rise between 600 feet and 700 feet above the ocean’s surface but could reach as high as 900 feet.
Under the new grant, the UT Dallas team will include doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and Dr. Mario Rotea, the Erik Jonsson Chair and head of mechanical engineering, who will lead the control systems thrust of the project. Through a process called control co-design, Rotea said he will work on developing the subsystems required to extract the most power with the least exertion of the turbine, which includes managing the forces on the blades and the turbine’s speed in changing weather conditions. UT Dallas researchers are working with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and corporate partners Aquanis Inc., VL Offshore and XFlow Energy.