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Backed by a U.S. Department of Energy grant, a team of University of Rhode Island researchers is working with colleagues at the University of Maine to develop a remote sensing and computational system to control the motion of floating wind turbines in irregular ocean conditions.
The $750,000 grant was provided through the Department of Energy’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program. With the grant, URI researchers are developing a wave remote sensing system that combined with real-time control can correct the movement of the turbines in unpredictable seas and high winds, improving power production, reducing fatigue on the structure, and optimizing operations.
The system researchers are working on using LIDAR, a remote sensing method that uses lasers to measure variable distances, to record wave measurements a couple of hundred yards from the turbine. Data are fed to a numerical model, which propagates the wave conditions to the turbine. A digital twin, which is a computational model of the turbine behaviour, predicts the movement of the turbine given the forces from waves and wind, triggering measures to right the structure—such as shifting a solid mass or water ballast, or pulling on the anchors that secure the turbine to the seafloor, or changing the pitch of the turbine’s blades.
With the new two-year grant, URI researchers and their graduate students plan to build and test the LIDAR system, which includes a wave reconstruction and forecasting algorithm. Plans are to first test it in Narragansett Bay. Near the end of the grant, the system will be tested in concert with a 20-meter-tall scale model of a floating turbine at the University of Maine’s field testing facility.