Andlinger Center Speaks: America’s windy coastlines and scaling offshore wind power

Written by
Molly Seltzer, Office of Communications
May 3, 2021

Earlier this month President Biden announced a massive effort to rapidly expand offshore wind in the United States, specifically on the East Coast along New York and New Jersey, as part of a national infrastructure plan. The plan starts to bridge the gap between the United States and the rest of the world; the U.S. has long lagged behind Europe in offshore wind, with only two small offshore wind farms with fewer than 20 turbines, compared to over 100 farms and more than 5,000 turbines across Europe. The infrastructure package is one step toward executing a net-zero emissions vision for the country. Princeton’s Net-Zero America study, released in December 2020, pointed to the need for wind power to grow at unprecedented rates to decarbonize the economy by midcentury. According to the four technological pathways that do not constrain wind growth to historic installment rates, total installed wind power must grow more than four-fold by 2030. The study’s authors found that by 2050, the country must have somewhere between six- and 28-fold the wind capacity that exists today, depending on the pathway.

Marcus Hultmark, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and Elie Bou-Zeid, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Program in Environmental Engineering and Water Resources, comment on the history and future of the U.S. wind industry.

Hultmark specializes in fluid mechanics, including flows around wind turbines and within wind farms. Bou-Zeid has expertise in environmental fluid mechanics and turbulence, wind energy forecasting, and wind farm design. The two were awarded a 2020 Andlinger Center grant for Innovative Research in Energy and the Environment to study how to better design wind farms, and particularly, offshore wind farms to maximize power output. 

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