Photo: Illustration (Courtesy of Texas A&M University College of Engineering)

Texas researchers start work on next-gen floating renewable energy station

The researchers from Texas A&M University have started developing an ocean renewable energy station that could combine wind, wave, current and solar energy methods on a floating offshore platform.

Illustration (Courtesy of Texas A&M University College of Engineering)
Illustration (Courtesy of Texas A&M University College of Engineering)

Research has started on the ocean renewable energy station, which would feature wind, wave, current and solar energy elements that could generate electricity for anything from a coastal or island community to a research lab or military unit, according to the Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering.

Moo-Hyun Kim, Bauer Professor II in the Department of Ocean Engineering and director of the Ocean System Simulation and Control Lab, and his team of researchers at Texas A&M University believe the next generation of offshore energy lies in the development of a synergistic combination of several renewable energy production methods, set atop a floating offshore platform.

Kim said: “Offshore renewable energy can directly power remote islands, numerous ocean platforms, electric boats, and underwater drones and vehicles, as well as ‘blue economy’ systems, such as marine aqua-culture, fish or macro algae farms. It can also be combined with desalination plants and hydrogen factories”.

Tethered at a sea level of 60 meters or deeper, the station will be ideal when water depth increases quickly, such as along the United States’ Pacific Coast or Hawaii, and will be less obtrusive to the view of coastal residents than a fixed offshore wind farm, the researchers claim.

According to the Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering, the station has been proven to have a highly competitive levelized cost of energy (the measurement of lifetime costs divided by energy production).

“Denmark is now building a huge multi-source, multi-purpose ocean energy island; wind energy is already competitive against fossil fuels. The biggest disadvantage of ocean renewable energy is its variability. So, some sort of storage method is highly needed to be commercially more useful”, Kim noted.

While offshore wind energy is commercially competitive, current wave-energy converters (which sit close to the surface of the water and utilize the natural motion of waves to generate electricity) are less cost-effective and only useful for smaller-scale, special purposes.

To help solve these problems, the ocean renewable energy station would several different methods of renewable energy. Additionally, as Kim said, larger offshore wind turbines may create better synergy with the other forms of energy production.

The research team also unveiled plans to incorporate innovative smart materials into the wave energy converter that will respond to changes in wave height and frequency and allow for more consistent power production.