Deep-sea divers monitoring and maintaining underwater power lines and cables for offshore wind turbines face sub-zero temperatures, poor visibility, and dangers such as jellyfish and sharks.

A new project at the University of Texas at Dallas' Wind Energy Center, known as UTD Wind, aims to make divers' jobs safer through the development of remote monitoring technology for offshore wind farms.

This $500,000, one-year project was completed through the Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI), a consortium of industry, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions including the University of Texas at Dallas that supports the development of criticality safety. It is part of a $2.7 million federal initiative. Environmental remediation for ocean energy activities, including conventional and renewable energy. OESI was organized under an agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Texas A&M Engineering Laboratory.

The project, which began in March, expands UTD wind research into new areas focused on safety. Researchers will develop digital twins, or virtual models, to simulate wind turbines and algorithms to extract information about faults from simulation data.

“We focus on something very important: safety. In any industry, zero accidents is desirable,” said Erik Jonsson, professor and chair of mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. said researcher Dr. Mario Lotea. “We are working to develop technologies that reduce human exposure to hazardous conditions in the marine environment.”

Working with Rotea are co-principal investigators Dr. Todd Griffith, professor of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Jie Zhang, associate professor of mechanical engineering. UTD researchers are collaborating with collaborators at NEC Laboratories America and Texas A&M University.

There are two types of offshore wind turbines: fixed platform and floating platform. Fixed platform turbines are built in shallow waters close to shore, while floating platform turbines are located several miles from shore, with cables and mooring lines connected to the ocean floor more than 100 feet below sea level. Power lines connect to power transmission centers and transmit power to the power grid. Water depths can reach up to 200 feet. Lothair said fixed and floating wind turbine platforms pose risks to personnel and vessels not seen in onshore wind projects.

“If we can use technology to provide early warning and eliminate the need for divers to inspect underwater cables, that would be great,” said Lothair, who is also director of UTD Wind.

The researchers' goal is to install sensors in accessible locations to detect damage and send early warnings of problems. Lotea said the technology provides situational information and improves safety when offshore wind personnel need to intervene.

This project also provides research opportunities for students. At UTD, student interest in wind technology is growing. UTD has a Wind Energy Club and a National Science Foundation-funded undergraduate research experience program focused on wind energy systems. UTD Wind recently received $1.6 million through the Consolidated Appropriations Act to establish a central headquarters for its growing wind energy research program.

According to the state comptroller's office, wind energy will account for about 29% of electricity generation in Texas by 2023, and Texas will have more wind turbines (15,300) than any other state in the nation. has been done.

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