Conference strives to mobilize offshore wind energy industry
Attending the Philadelphia conference on offshore wind energy are, from left, Nancy Targett, dean of UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment; Delaware Gov. Jack Markell; Walter Musial, senior engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and Jeremy Firestone, associate professor in the college.


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2:50 p.m., Feb. 4, 2010----The leading thinkers from the world's offshore wind energy community gathered to discuss the industry's future at a conference held Feb. 2-3 in Philadelphia and supported by the University of Delaware. Offshore Wind Power: Creating a Roadmap for Commercially Successful Offshore Wind Projects brought together more than 150 representatives from the financial, academic, conservation, and scientific communities as well as the government.

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Speaking at the opening address, Jeremy Firestone, event chair and associate professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, said the conference was an opportunity to agree on next steps for overcoming obstacles to successful offshore wind deployment.

Though challenges yet remain for such success -- from financing to supply chain to energy transmission constraints -- Firestone said that the conference was “well-timed in the heart of the movement for offshore wind power in the United States.”

He named nearly a dozen recent advancements that have laid the groundwork for industry growth in 2010. Among them were Maryland's agreement to purchase 55 megawatts of energy from Delaware's NRG Bluewater Wind project, Michigan's creation of a Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council, and UD's agreement with Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica to install a land-based turbine this spring on its Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes for power generation and research purposes.

Gamesa and Global Marine Systems sponsored the event, which was organized by the U.K.-based Green Power Conferences.

Kicking off Tuesday's program was a keynote address by Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. In a speech that emphasized collaboration, Markell said that the harnessing of wind energy presents an incredible economic and environmental opportunity to reinvigorate manufacturing, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote energy independence.

He outlined examples of the state's efforts to catalyze industry success. Such initiatives include developing plans for the regional transmission of energy, pursuing funding to build ships that would support wind farms, and working to standardize permitting processes.

Highlighting the challenges yet to be faced, Markell said it is important to leverage all the region's efforts toward developing a steady market demand, a robust regional supply chain, spatial planning and scientific research, energy transmission, and a strong workforce.

He added that it is important to bring current wind projects to development as soon as possible.

“Every day that we delay is another day of dirty power or emissions, health costs, and missed economic opportunity,” he said. “I want the efforts we've had in Delaware to lead our nation toward a clean energy future. The best way for that to happen is if we all work together.”

The conference's opening session also included the panel discussions “When is Offshore Wind Realistically Going to Take Off and What Are the Necessary Requirements?” and “Environmental Impacts and Considerations,” as well as two lectures on federal and state permitting processes.

Other sessions, including one from Willett Kempton, the director of UD's Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, covered topics such as wind resource assessment, transmission, and financing options.

In addition to professionals from countries including the U.K., Turkey, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Japan, and Korea, attending the event were several UD graduate students. Marine policy master's student Scott Baker was looking forward to hearing from participants with expertise on his thesis topic, offshore wind state policy.

He said the conference was attended by “all the key players” in the industry.

“This is incredible,” he said. “Working here and attending the sessions is a great way to meet who you need to become acquainted with in this industry.”

Article by Elizabeth Boyle