Buoy Loan Program

Lending buoys for wind research

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Strong, relentless winds off of the nation’s shores could provide more than 2,000 gigawatts of electricity to communities along the coasts. But before the wind industry can design and build the technologies to harvest that power, it needs solid data about wind direction and speeds at wind turbine heights. Armed with this information, industry can optimize the development and deployment of offshore wind technologies.

The Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) manages much of the nation’s offshore wind research. This role includes overseeing advanced instrumentation that is key to helping wind energy researchers collect the necessary data. WETO’s instrumentation includes two AXYS WindSentinelTM buoys equipped with lidar and other sensing capabilities that provide a host of meteorological and oceanographic data to support offshore wind research.

Borrowing buoys for wind energy research

PNNL administers the buoys for WETO, including a loan program for government, academic, or industry organizations. Through the WETO Buoy Loan Program, organizations can collect and use buoy data to validate wind predictions, improve the understanding of air-sea interactions, and reduce uncertainty and risk in characterizing offshore wind resources.

The buoys are equipped with instrumentation that measures vertical wind profiles; near-surface wind speed and direction; air temperature, humidity, and pressure; solar radiation; wave height, peak period and directional spectrum; ocean current speed and direction; and surface water temperature. Lidar upgrades in 2019 and the associated validation campaign provide a state-of-the-art buoy system for users.

The buoys were initially deployed off the coasts of Virginia and New Jersey in the mid-2010s, gleaning 17 months and 15 months of data, respectively. These data—and future data collected via the Buoy Loan Program—are transmitted to the Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) Data Archive and Portal at PNNL in near real time to be made publicly available.

Organizations that want to use the buoys for their research should submit an application to the Buoy Loan Program for evaluation. Selected applicants will be invited to negotiate loan agreements.

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