The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House have made offshore wind a centerpiece of plans to strengthen the nation’s energy infrastructure, announcing a goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 — a huge leap from the 42 megawatts (MW) currently in operation. Not only could this provide enough electricity to power 10 million American homes and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 78 million metric tons, it could also support as many as 77,000 new jobs.
The success of this initiative will rely, in large part, on partnerships to accelerate research and development (R&D) and establish new offshore systems in such an ambitious time frame. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is certain to be at the center of many of these efforts, contributing expertise in research related to offshore wind as well as building coalitions.
NREL has a long, successful track record of collaboration with partners in industry, agencies at all levels of government, and the research community. Offshore wind project partnerships have given NREL the insight needed to develop innovations that solve real-world problems and become the recognized standards for industry. For example, 80% of all prototypes for offshore wind floating platforms have been designed with the help of NREL open-source analysis tools — which NREL created through collaboration with laboratory partners.
NREL’s partners have helped the laboratory build a broad, in-depth understanding of the unique challenges of offshore environments. Offshore wind’s remote locations, deep waters, and extreme weather and ocean conditions present additional design, installation, and operation hurdles in the form of efficiency, cost, and durability.
Offshore wind collaborations bring together the research expertise of NREL staff with the know-how of industry partners, the policymaking perspective of government agencies, and additional support from other laboratories and universities. Researchers work with partners to characterize wind resources, optimize plants and turbines, analyze techno-economic and market factors, and assess potential environmental impacts.
In particular, partners rely on NREL’s pioneering research to boost the performance and market viability of floating platform technologies needed to capture energy in the deepwater locations that account for nearly 60% of U.S. offshore wind resources. The laboratory’s researchers have most recently turned their attention to the integration of offshore wind energy with land-based utility systems to increase grid reliability, resilience, and efficiency.
Transmission of offshore wind energy relies on equipment such as undersea cables to carry power back to the mainland.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, more than $10 million in funding for NREL offshore wind research projects came from partnerships with industry. The NREL team is working with more than 45 commercial, government, and research organizations on offshore, land-based, and distributed wind research projects in 2021.
This reflects the overall success of the laboratory in cultivating partnerships. Over the last 12 years, NREL has brought in $1 billion in partnership contracts, with more than 900 active partnership agreements and close to 600 unique partners in FY 2020.
With the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind development recently cleared for installation by the U.S. Department of the Interior off the coast of Massachusetts, the NREL offshore wind team hopes to engage with new partners to grow its collaborative base and make even more meaningful contributions to this burgeoning industry in the coming years.
Giving Industry the Tools To Compete
Industry partners know they can bank on the intellectual capital of experienced NREL researchers to develop and refine breakthrough offshore wind technologies and provide the balanced, market-savvy guidance needed for successful deployment. In addition, NREL offers industry partners hands-on research collaboration, technical assistance, deployment guidance, research facility use, and technology licensing.
“Collaboration with industry is key to making sure our R&D addresses real-world issues and priorities, while helping transfer scientific knowledge from the lab to the marketplace,” said NREL Principal Engineer Jeroen van Dam. “We’re giving offshore developers the tools to establish market parity — and giving the United States resources to join the field of international players.”
Through collaborations with the primary offshore wind regulators — the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement — and in coordination with the Business Network for Offshore Wind and the American Clean Power Association trade organizations, NREL is helping lead the development of industry standards that will define the requirements for utility-scale deployment of offshore wind in the United States. The team also works with individual companies — from startups to established corporations — including system operators, developers, original equipment manufacturers, energy suppliers, and investors. Scores of U.S. companies are currently involved in building, running, or supporting supply chains related to offshore systems.
The laboratory provides a credible source for objective expertise and validated data, bolstering rather than competing with industry efforts. NREL research focuses on early-stage technologies, where industry investments tend to be lean, while also targeting R&D priorities with potential for future commercialization. This has included collaboration on tools needed for industry to eventually develop larger, more powerful turbines and optimize system performance, efficiency, reliability, and affordability.
NREL takes broader economic factors into consideration when assessing the potential impact of offshore wind research and development. Offshore wind could trigger more than $12 billion per year in U.S. capital investment in offshore wind projects and spur significant activity and growth for ports, factories, and construction.
NREL also takes bigger economic factors into consideration when assessing the potential impact of offshore wind research and development. Eventually, it is estimated that offshore wind could trigger more than $12 billion per year in U.S. capital investment and spur significant activity and growth for ports, factories, and construction operations.
NREL analysts help developers and other industry partners gain crucial, unbiased understanding of the balance among potential offshore wind costs, revenues, and risks within the broader context of technical, legal, regulatory, tax, and policy issues. NREL market reports provide the data needed to support decision-making, including information critical to building the skilled workforce necessary for industry growth.
Building Coalitions To Spur Innovation
NREL has provided ongoing leadership to forge collaborative partnerships that bring together top minds from a range of sectors to form a virtual think tank of offshore wind research experts. In this convening role, NREL acts as a catalyst for exchanging information, tackling large research projects, and providing industry and policy decision makers with the body of scientific knowledge needed to champion new approaches.
“The developers and states really set the pace,” Musial said. “They’re ultimately the ones who will be responsible for rolling out and operating new offshore systems. Our job is to arm them with the information they need to maximize clean energy production in ways that will work best to help them achieve the lowest cost for their project.”
The laboratory’s involvement in coalition efforts reaches across the country and around the globe. Many International Energy Agency Wind Technology Collaboration Programme (IEA Wind) research tasks, which engage academia and industry across three continents, are led by NREL research staff. This includes development of a 15-MW reference turbine in partnership with IEA Wind and DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office to help design larger, more powerful, next-generation turbines.
NREL’s global and national partnerships are helping design larger, more powerful, next-generation offshore wind technologies, such as the IEA Wind 15-MW reference turbine.
NREL has a long, successful history of partnerships with international and U.S. universities and research institutions, including other national laboratories. The laboratory’s university affiliations encompass professors collaborating on NREL projects, NREL researchers advising graduate students, and projects supported by university funding. Consortia comprising multiple institutions and larger collaborations that involve several different agencies, universities, labs, and private-sector partners bring a range of perspectives to offshore wind solutions.
Collaborative efforts helmed by other U.S. government agencies, including DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), also rely on NREL research expertise. For example, ARPA-E has funded the Aerodynamic Turbines Lighter and Afloat with Nautical Technologies and Integrated Servo-control (ATLANTIS) program to develop new floating offshore wind turbines by tightly integrating control systems and design. NREL leads three ATLANTIS projects, working with one other national laboratory, four universities, and four industry partners.
Tapping One-of-a-Kind Offshore Wind Expertise
So, why do all of these organizations choose to partner with NREL on offshore wind research projects?
Certain collaborative undertakings rely on NREL’s high-performance Eagle supercomputer and world-class Flatirons Campus research facilities to put innovative offshore wind technologies and strategies through their paces. NREL software tools make it possible for researchers and partners to build models and simulate performance based on the laboratory’s formidable collections of data.
But NREL also offers one-of-a-kind expertise from its staff of 150 wind energy scientists, engineers, and analysts, many of whom contribute their multidisciplinary knowledge to offshore projects. With numerous cumulative decades of research experience, the team is able to tap a deep base of knowledge specific to offshore wind, as well as wider-reaching input from experts in related disciplines such as land-based wind power, other areas of clean energy generation, transmission, and integration. This cross-cutting approach has recently led scientists to uncover new efficiencies for converting wind energy to hydrogen that can be readily stored and used for a range of applications.
In surveys, multiple partners have given NREL high marks for its collaborative approach, distinct technical capabilities, and strong understanding of current needs and priorities.
“If we want the nation’s ambitious vision for offshore wind to become reality, we all need to pull together,” Musial said.
“These partnerships with industry, universities, other labs, and government agencies are crucial to developing the right technology, installing it at the right locations, and connecting it to the grid so that we can maximize offshore’s contribution to the country’s affordable clean energy mix.”
Article courtesy of the NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy.
Now that you’ve had time to digest the Cybertruck launch, would you buy one?
After Paris banned electric scooters, something surprising happened in the city
Paris raised eyebrows earlier this year when the city voted to ban shared electric scooters. While privately owned electric scooters were still allowed, the thousands of shared electric scooters that were commonly used by locals and tourists were forced to vacate the city, with unexpected results.
The idea for a shared electric scooter ban was originally floated late last year in response to the growing complaints by a vocal minority of citizens who objected to their widespread use around the city. Earlier this year, the referendum went up for a vote. Ultimately, the majority of voters on the day supported the proposed ban, though extremely low turnout meant that the measure passed despite garnering ‘yes’ votes from just 7% of registered voters in Paris.
Shared electric scooters were often seen as a way for commuters to avoid driving cars and for tourists to eschew rental vehicles in favor of smaller shared e-scooters. Because the scooters weren’t privately owned, they were ideal for both groups as an on-demand transportation solution.
At their peak, 15,000 electric scooters helped riders navigate the capital city.
While many predicted that a shared electric scooter ban could have a knee-jerk reaction to return to larger vehicles, a new study has shown that the effect may have bolstered dockless bike-sharing instead.
An interesting trend has emerged comparing September 2022 and October 2022 ridership levels of dockless bikes and scooters. The total number of rides has slightly decreased this year due to the expulsion of shared electric scooter companies. However, the number of dockless bike rides skyrocketed, more than doubling in just one year.
September 2022’s roughly 750,000 dockless bike trips became nearly 2 million trips in September 2023. Similarly, October 2022 saw a nearly identical jump in ridership.
The results seem to show that despite Paris banning shared electric scooters, Parisians still seek out and use shared mobility devices. Now, they appear to have merely shifted to shared bikes instead of shared scooters.
Less than a year after the shared electric scooter ban was enacted, a modal shift towards alternative shared mobility is clearly visible in the city.
Shared electric scooters are out, but shared micromobility seems to be going strong.
Whether Parisians will take a similarly hardline approach against a new growing ridership of dockless mobility devices has yet to be seen, but could also determine the fate of dockless bikes in the city.
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Chinese EV maker Nio to spin off battery unit: report
For years, Chinese EV maker Nio has essentially done it all, delving into high-end EV manufacturing, in-house batteries, autonomous driving, and chips, as well as innovative battery-swapping tech and even making smartphones, all while pulling in huge investments and talent to make that happen. Now, according to a new report, it’s looking to lighten the load.
As reported by Reuters, Nio now plans to spin off its battery unit in hopes of turning a profit, cutting costs, and improving efficiency – and offloading some of its ambitions to pursue end-to-end strategies in EV tech. The move could take place as early as the end of this month, after which the battery unit will seek outside investors, followed by a valuation, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to Reuters.
Nio’s current battery unit is headed by senior engineers who worked previously at Apple and Panasonic. During last year’s earnings report, CEO William Li said that the battery team comprised 400 people researching battery materials, cells, and battery management systems. In terms of the new company, the top engineers will presumably join the spin-off, while other employees will be merged into Nio’s other divisions, the report said.
Nio brought on a team of engineers “to mass-produce large cylindrical batteries similar to the Tesla 4680 in a planned plant in China’s eastern Anhui province in 2025 at the earliest,” Reuters writes. In February, reports stated that the plant would have an annual capacity to produce 40 GWh of batteries to power about 400,000 long-range EVs.
Nio of course hasn’t been immune to market pressures on EV makers, with a reported third-quarter loss of 4.56 billion yuan ($637.06 million) on Tuesday, a 10.8% increase from the same period a year ago. CEO Li, who has not mentioned any plans for a spin-off, is focusing on reassuring investors that the company isn’t in over its head, saying that they’ll cut staff by 10% and defer long-term investors to save up to 2 billion yuan in costs this year.
Nio has also partnered with Geely and state-owned Changan Automobile to develop EVs capable of battery swaps, making Nio the only passenger vehicle manufacturer advancing this potential. Nio, which already sells in Europe, is also looking to build a dealer network in the region to accelerate sales. It also has targeted 2025 as a goal for expanding to the US – no small ambition.
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