Partnerships Amplify Velocity of Offshore Wind Innovation Collaboration Increases Reach and Impact of NREL R&D.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House have made offshore wind a centerpiece of plans to strengthen the nation’s energy infrastructure, announcing a goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030—a huge leap from the 42 megawatts (MW) currently in operation. Not only could this provide enough electricity to power 10 million American homes and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 78 million metric tons, it could also support as many as 77,000 new jobs.
The success of this initiative will rely, in large part, on partnerships to accelerate research and development (R&D) and establish new offshore systems in such an ambitious time frame. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is certain to be at the center of many of these efforts, contributing expertise in research related to offshore wind as well as building coalitions.
NREL has a long, successful track record of collaboration with partners in industry, agencies at all levels of government, and the research community. Offshore wind project partnerships have given NREL the insight needed to develop innovations that solve real-world problems and become the recognized standards for industry. For example, 80% of all prototypes for offshore wind floating platforms have been designed with the help of NREL open-source analysis tools—which NREL created through collaboration with laboratory partners.
NREL’s partners have helped the laboratory build a broad, in-depth understanding of the unique challenges of offshore environments. Offshore wind’s remote locations, deep waters, and extreme weather and ocean conditions present additional design, installation, and operation hurdles in the form of efficiency, cost, and durability.
Offshore wind collaborations bring together the research expertise of NREL staff with the know-how of industry partners, the policymaking perspective of government agencies, and additional support from other laboratories and universities. Researchers work with partners to characterize wind resources, optimize plants and turbines, analyze techno-economic and market factors, and assess potential environmental impacts.
In particular, partners rely on NREL’s pioneering research to boost the performance and market viability of floating platform technologies needed to capture energy in the deepwater locations that account for nearly 60% of U.S. offshore wind resources. The laboratory’s researchers have most recently turned their attention to the integration of offshore wind energy with land-based utility systems to increase grid reliability, resilience, and efficiency.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, more than $10 million in funding for NREL offshore wind research projects came from partnerships with industry. The NREL team is working with more than 45 commercial, government, and research organizations on offshore, land-based, and distributed wind research projects in 2021.
This reflects the overall success of the laboratory in cultivating partnerships. Over the last 12 years, NREL has brought in $1 billion in partnership contracts, with more than 900 active partnership agreements and close to 600 unique partners in FY 2020.
With the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind development recently cleared for installation by the U.S. Department of the Interior off the coast of Massachusetts, the NREL offshore wind team hopes to engage with new partners to grow its collaborative base and make even more meaningful contributions to this burgeoning industry in the coming years.