ODU mapping tool to help site wind turbines
The answer, they say, is blowin’ in the wind.
In August 2020, Old Dominion University won a $775,000 grant from the Department of Defense that will help create a “wind energy siting solution,” enabling offshore and onshore wind-energy developers to avoid potential conflicts with military operations and trainings.
The ODU grant followed Dominion Energy Inc.’s June 2020 installation of two monster wind turbines some 27 miles off Cape Henry during the summer — the first wind turbines in the nation in federal waters.
The two turbines — each standing more than 600 feet above the ocean surface — eventually will be joined by more than 180 even larger turbines in an adjacent 112,800-acre expanse of the Atlantic Ocean leased by Dominion Energy from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Plans call for construction to begin in 2024 on the largest single offshore wind project in the country. Known as Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind and scheduled for completion in 2026, it will provide 2.6 gigawatts of power, enough for more than 650,000 customers.
As big as it’ll be, though, the project will get Virginia only halfway to its goal of generating 5.2 gigawatts from wind energy by 2034, says George Hagerman, senior project scientist at ODU’s Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography.
That means more offshore wind lease areas will have to be identified, though exactly where those will be located is, well, up in the air. Part of this is due to all the stakeholders that have to be considered. Dominion Energy’s project had to take into account the military, ports and commercial shippers.
That’s where ODU’s new siting solution tool comes in.
ODU’s tool, once rolled out, will help in the development of future wind-energy sites by providing a “web-based map portal,” weaving together unclassified military GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data layers and visualizing offshore and onshore features such as training routes, restricted airspace and radar coverage, says Tom Allen, professor of geography and political science at ODU, who will serve as principal investigator.
The tool will cover the state and extend 200 miles out into the ocean, across the “Exclusive Economic Zone,” he says.
“Not long ago, the ocean was considered open space,” Hagerman explains. “Nobody had to worry about where they fished; and once outside designated shipping lanes, nobody had to worry about where they sailed their ships.”
Offshore wind energy has changed all of that.
“It’s a paradigm shift,” he says.