The University of Delaware has approached the US Department of Energy for money to help develop an offshore wind project. The idea of this project would be to help demonstrate advanced wind technologies.

The University will work in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Lab. They propose that this offshore wind test site will be located off the coast of Delaware.

Both of the companies submitted the proposal in response to a request from the Energy Department, said Jeremy Firestone, a marine science professor at the university, and the investigator for this project.

The Energy Department has plans to give money to one applicant for work on the deployment of energy technologies, and it would provide funding for five proposals that demonstrate advanced technologies.

Up for grabs is a total of $180 million. The advanced technology proposals would receive $4 million of funding each for one year. At the end of the first year, three of these five projects will be selected for funding of up to $46.5 million, this would be subject to approval. The energy officials are expected to choose the energy projects it will fund in October 2012.

The University and the NREL have had an agreement since 2010. NREL is an energy department lab which has the sole intention of advancing renewable energy, as well as improving energy efficiency, right the way from a concept through to a commercial application. It has offices in Washington DC and Golden and Louisville, Colorado. The University would carry out the development of the test site, whilst the lab would provide certification for the testing.

The objective for the project is to attempt to lower the cost of offshore wind energy. This would involve a number of things. The first would be the testing of the technology to improve reliability. If technology can be improved to be reliable then it will become much more ‘bankable’. This is because certified and tested technology makes it much easier for developers to get financing on a project.

The two will also work together to improve technological innovations. They are hoping that their collaboration will result in the next generation of wind turbines. However they won’t be looking at just the turbine, they will also be looking at other methods in which they can reduce costs.

They will also work to lower market barriers for newcomers to offshore wind energy. They are looking to help develop the infrastructure needed to put together a wind farm like this. Their wind farm will also obtain a contract to sell electricity, and various companies will be able to use the site to test their various methods.

The companies stated that this would stop start-up ventures having to set up their own real-world test platform. Instead they will be able to use this one at a much lower cost, they would need to pay a usage fee.

In addition to this, the project will also strive to work on social, environmental and regulatory barriers for companies trying to develop alternative energy technologies. This is an area where the university has a lot of experience.

One of the longer term goals of the project is to help the economic development of the United States, as well as assist in the creation of additional jobs.

The proposal identifies one possible site in the Atlantic Ocean, but it will not be the one that is in Delaware Bay.

The project will be fairly small, with less than 10 wind turbines in place. It would be open to any company that wants to use it, and no one company will be favoured. It will be a national offshore wind test site.

The Energy Department won’t be giving grants, instead they would enter agreements with the projects that it funds.

The University of Delaware is the leading offshore wind energy academic-research institution in America, although the University of Massachusetts is also a front runner for the funding.

One other project is located in Ohio, the Great Lakes to be exact. One of these projects will involve floating wind turbines off the coast of Maine. Others will be based off the coast of Atlantic City, and a few other projects in Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.

These projects have a much more commercial focus than the ones that the University of Delaware is developing. No conceptual views of the offshore site have been developed yet, however they will be if the project receives funding.

Delaware’s congressional delegation has urged Steven Chu, the Energy Department Secretary to support the proposal from the University and the National Renewable Energy Lab.

“As a result of its design, we expect the UD/NREL offshore wind test site will advance the knowledge base of not only innovative offshore wind technology, but also serve to lower nonmarket barriers, such as social and environmental, that have proven substantial for the offshore wind industry,”

A number of people support the delegation, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Siemens Corp, Gamesa Technologies, Vestas and the Port of Wilmington.

The location of Delaware makes it a key focus for the wind industry as they believe it is here that the greatest potential for wind development is located. Which of course would result in better research into all aspects of energy production.

Benefits of the site include:

Provide the Public with performance data, and generate a return on taxpayers money within five years. The project will be self-sufficient by 2017.

Enable tests of wind power technologies which are high risk but can give high rewards. These might otherwise be left on the ‘drawing table’

Complete other federal investments in the area.