Wind Energy R&D Concentrates in NY’s Capital Region
As the Capital Region emerges as a leading East Coast offshore wind (OSW) component manufacturing hub, the area is already at the forefront of wind energy R&D. In 2020, one in 12 wind energy patents awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) listed an inventor from the Capital Region, according to a Center for Economic Growth review of patents listed in the PTO’s patent database.
Local Wind Energy Inventors
In 2020, the PTO awarded 859 patents with a Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) for wind energy.1 This includes patents pertaining to wind turbines with rotation axis in wind direction, offshore wind turbines, onshore wind turbines, wind turbines with rotation axis perpendicular to the wind direction, and power conversion electric or electronic aspects. Among those patents, inventors in the eight-county region were listed on 74 of those patents, or 8.6 percent.
A majority of those patents (96 percent) listed inventors for General Electric, which has GE Power, GE Renewable Energy and GE Research in Schenectady County. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute also had two patents with local inventors assigned to it and Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts had one listing a former RPI research assistant.
To date, the PTO has awarded very few OSW turbine patents (489) in all years. Fifteen were assigned to GE in the Capital Region, but they mostly listed international inventors. However, GE Research in Niskayuna last month revealed details of a $4 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) project for the design and development of advanced controls to support a 12 MW floating offshore wind turbine. Last January, the U.S. Department of Energy also selected GE Research in Niskayuna to receive $20.3 million for the development and testing of a prototype high-efficiency ultra-light low temperature superconducting offshore wind generator that leverages GE’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.
At CEG’s Capital Region Offshore Wind Virtual Summit in April, several presenters stressed the importance of leveraging academic resources to growing a robust OSW industry. James Glennie, an OSW wind energy expert for the Embassy of Denmark, said R&D “does play a critical role” in growing the OSW industry. He identified universities and technical colleges as “an incredible resource, and it’s very important they are on board and up to speed and with the program.” Grant Van Wyngaarden, a senior supply chain development manager for Ørsted/Eversource, added, “The Capital Region has an excellent value proposition to the industry with incredible experiences in advanced manufacturing, research and development, and on top of that a very experienced and skilled workforce.”
Watch the Summit.
One major wind energy academic R&D resource in the region is RPI. The university houses the Center for Future Energy Systems (CFES), which has been researching wind energy for two decades. Research topics undertaken at CFES ranged from turbine aerodynamics to composite materials for turbine blades; wake effects and farm layout optimization; electric machines, power electronics and controls for turbine electrical system; and to integration of wind power into the power grid. Between 2007 and 2010, the center developed a first-of-its-kind distributed generation (DG) testbed that served as a system platform several grid-integration research projects for wind and solar energy.
CFES has several ongoing R&D wind energy projects that are being supported by a TenneT, a German transmission system operator; NYSERDA; GE; the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium; the and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). These projects include:
- Working with a selected manufacturer of a high-voltage dc (HVDC) transmission system for offshore wind to test and demonstrate advanced control techniques developed at CFES.
- Studying the possibility of placing four smaller rotors on a single tower (e., quad-rotor wind turbines), specifically conducting high-fidelity simulations of the turbine dynamics, aerodynamics, acoustics, and failure modes.
- Developing DC collection and transmission technology for OSW.
- Studying grid integration of large-scale winds, particularly to develop the fundamental theory, core algorithms and supporting tools for stability analysis of future power systems dominated by generation from renewable sources.
Another major wind energy academic R&D resources in the Capital Region is the University at Albany’s New York State Center of Excellence in Weather & Climate Analytics, which includes the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC). NYSERA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have funded nearly $3 million in wind energy-related research projects. They include:
- Developing a comprehensive, state-scale, all-storm-type Outage Prediction Model (OPM).
- Producing forecasts of threshold wind speeds and wind gusts that may produce power outages at county to sub-county scales transmission down to distribution lines.
- Developing a quantified, probability-based study of the redistribution of New York’s renewable energy resources (wind, solar, and hydro) to provide a clearer path for adaptation strategies necessary to ensure energy resiliency during the state’s shift to a non-fossil fuel economy amid a changing climate.
- Incorporating a flux (heat, moisture, and CO2) measurement system on buoy-Lidar platforms to provide more comprehensive measurements in the offshore wind environment.
- Studying the dynamics and clisea breeze circulation that affects New York City and Long Island and the potential effects on the OSW resource now being developed.
Since February 2018 – one month after NYSERDA announced its first OSW solicitation – CEG has been raising awareness with international OSW developers about the capabilities of the Capital Region’s ports while also readying a regional supply chain and workforce. This work has included:
- Raising the Capital Region’s profile with international OEMs by participating in 11 OSW conferences.
- Working with NYSERDA and OEMs to build out the region’s OSW supply chain.
- Connecting local manufacturers with OSW original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
- Hosting the Capital Region Offshore Wind Summit.
- Organizing the Virtual Offshore Wind Tour, presented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and CEG.
- Assisting WRI Energy in Glens Falls make connections with the OSW industry.
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