Rutgers Offshore Wind Energy Symposium attracts nearly 200 for offshore wind energy research

Rutgers University recently played host to a group of researchers who gathered to share their expertise in offshore wind energy.

The Rutgers University Offshore Wind Energy Symposium attracted nearly 200 registrants — from academics at Rutgers and other state universities, to fishermen, environmentalists, nonprofit leaders, industry representatives and government officials.

Organized by the Rutgers Offshore Wind Collaborative, the symposium catalyzed networking opportunities across the Rutgers community and brought together a host of individuals expected to play a key role in New Jersey’s effort to help the nation fight global warming by shifting to offshore wind energy.

“We’re well-positioned to support needs of the offshore wind industry,” said Denise Hien, vice provost for research at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

Gov. Phil Murphy has set a goal for the Garden State to generate 11 gigawatts of electricity from offshore wind energy by 2040.

“The collaborative brings together the tremendous expertise at Rutgers, creating an opportunity for sharing the broad diversity of capabilities needed to achieve the governor’s goals for offshore wind energy,” Peggy Brennan-Tonetta, senior associate director of Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and one of the collaborative’s three leaders, stated.

More than 40 Rutgers faculty — including experts in marine and environmental sciences, engineering, business, economics, public policy and psychology at Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-Newark, Rutgers-New Brunswick, NJAES and Rutgers Cooperative Extension — have joined the collaborative, and participation is growing, Brennan-Tonetta said.

The symposium included five-minute “lightning talks” on turbine technology, power storage, ocean and marine life monitoring, wind speed forecasting, supply chain development, the psychology behind acceptance of recent technology and regulations for ensuring diversity & inclusion in the offshore wind energy economy from 20 professors about their research.

While there are 10,000 offshore wind turbines operating between Europe and Asia, the U.S. currently has only seven, said Kris Ohleth, the keynote speaker and director of the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, an independent think tank. “This is still seen as science fiction” in the U.S., Ohleth said.

New Jersey is well-suited for offshore wind farms because of high winds off the coastline, a relatively shallow ocean depth that can accommodate ocean floor-based turbines, and a dense population in need of energy, Ohleth said.

Symposium participants considered the technical, economic and social pros and cons of offshore wind energy development and discussed the effects on the fishing industry, tourism and marine wildlife. There is a need, they said, to build the industry workforce, get students interested in careers and provide training for minority communities and fossil fuel industry employees in order to make the transition to offshore wind energy jobs. These and other recommendations will be incorporated into a white paper for Rutgers faculty and will also be shared with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.