Five-year Lease Deal Clears Way for Turbine Testing off Florida’s Southeast Coast
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) will soon install the world’s first offshore test berth for small-scale ocean current turbines thanks to a recently signed five-year lease agreement between FAU and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
“This project is a potentially paradigm-shifting development in the global quest for clean energy sources and puts South Florida at the forefront of research in this critical effort,” FAU President John Kelly said. “It also demonstrates the multidisciplinary nature of marine renewable’s research, a successful public, private partnership and FAU’s international leadership in the field.”
The lease allows installation of multiple anchored floating test berths on the U.S. outer continental shelf 13 miles (22 km) offshore from Broward County, Fla. These test berths, each consisting of a buoy anchored to the sea floor, allow ocean current turbine prototypes (up to 100kW generation capacity) to be deployed from vessels moored in the Gulf Stream for a few weeks at a time.
“This is the first time a lease has been issued to test ocean current energy equipment in Federal waters,” said Walter Cruickshank, BOEM acting director. “The Gulf Stream contains a tremendous amount of energy, and this technology offers exciting potential to expand the nation’s renewable energy portfolio.”
Industry partners will have the opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of their turbine designs while mooring buoys collect measurements of ocean conditions nearby.
“Our team’s hard work and dedication to our vision is symbolized by the signed lease,” said Susan Skemp, director of SNMREC in FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. “We are now looking forward to working closely with our industry partners as we begin to collectively evaluate equipment to generate power from ocean currents and continue to inform future regulatory processes.”
FAU’s SNMREC has been working since 2007 to establish the world’s first offshore ocean current turbine test site. Researchers recently performed a successful final sea trial of the first test berth buoy as well as preliminary tow tests of a small-scale research turbine in late 2013 — key steps before the installation of the test site. Before receiving a lease offer from BOEM, an environmental assessment of the project concluded that “no significant impact” was expected. Before installation of the first test berth planned this year, a project plan will be reviewed by BOEM. This work is supported by close to $20 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Florida and private companies.
FAU SNMREC's lease application, a revised environmental assessment, as well as Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSI), can be accessed on BOEM's Florida Activities web page here. Images of the small-scale research turbine and video from its tow tests can be downloaded here.
About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.
About the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC): Originally established in 2007 as a State of Florida Center of Excellence, the U.S. Department of Energy designated the Center as a national center for ocean energy research and development to advance the operational readiness of ocean energy technologies in August 2010. The SNMREC is collaborating with industry partners to investigate, refine, fabricate and test promising next-generation water power technologies to harness energy from the oceans. The Center’s researchers have begun by deploying ocean current observation systems, establishing environmental baselines to determine potential interaction between equipment and marine life, and preparing test infrastructure for ocean energy systems. The Center will ultimately perform full-scale field testing of prototype ocean current turbines, a key step toward the acceleration of utility-scale commercial ocean energy generation. As a public institution of higher education, FAU is promoting public awareness of ocean energy research and development, and is developing curricula for the education of a workforce for this new industry. For more information, visit: snmrec.fau.edu..
About the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM): The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) promotes energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy. For more information, visit: www.boem.gov.