BOEM, PNNL Collecting Wind and Metocean Data Offshore Hawaii

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) have deployed a floating buoy offshore Hawaii to collect offshore wind resource and meteorological and oceanographic (metocean) data.

AXYS Services / PNNL

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The floating research buoy, owned by the Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO), was installed in December 2022 and is stationed some 15 miles (around 24 kilometres) east of Oahu, in water depth of 800 metres.

The buoy can measure and collect data on wind speed and direction up to 250 metres above the water’s surface; ocean current down to 200 metres below the surface; wave spectrum; air temperature, relative humidity, and pressure; sea surface temperatures and conductivity; and solar radiation, according to PNNL has made the data collected by the buoy available in real time through the Wind Data Hub.

The buoy off Hawaii was previously collecting data off the coast of California and is one of two research buoys managed by PNNL.

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After being retrieved from the site offshore California, the floating research buoy was upgraded and now has two onboard cameras, an independent power supply for the GPS and navigation lights, and a new backup generator.

Waters off the Hawaiian islands are deemed best suited for floating wind technology and there have already been several studies on tapping into the state’s offshore wind resource, as well as interest from developers.

Floating Offshore Wind Activities in Hawaii

BOEM has completed multiple studies over the past several years, including research into the feasibility of installing floating wind farms offshore Oahu and the infrastructure needed to support floating wind deployment in the state.

The government agency also has several ongoing studies focused on marine wildlife, with research revolving around the effect of offshore wind on seabirds and whales.

In 2014 and 2015, BOEM received three unsolicited wind energy lease requests from two potential developers, two from AW Hawaii Wind, part of the Danish Alpha Wind Energy group, and one from Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind, a US-based floating wind developer.

Each project has been proposed to have a capacity of 400 MW.

In 2016, Equinor (known as Statoil at the time) emerged as a third party interested in developing offshore wind projects in the state as BOEM published a Call for Information and Nominations for additional nominations from companies interested in commercial wind energy leases within a Call Area the agency identified offshore Hawaii.

After closing the Call period, BOEM started the Area Identification stage of the leasing process to identify areas for environmental analysis and consideration for leasing, and then announced its intent to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) of potential commercial wind leasing and site assessment activities on the ocean continental shelf offshore the island of Oahu. 

In 2021, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory published The Cost and Feasibility of Floating Offshore Wind Energy in the Oahu Region study, which provides estimates of the Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) of offshore wind in the region surrounding Oahu and investigates related topics relevant to planning for offshore wind.

Last year, the US Department of Energy awarded a Hawaii-based company Makai Ocean Engineering funding to develop new mooring and anchoring methods for grid-scale floating offshore wind turbines to enable reducing the LCOE and deploying floating wind turbines in areas that would otherwise not be accessible or would be too expensive with current mooring and anchoring technologies.

Hawaii, already a national leader in solar energy, is aiming to be fully powered by renewable energy by 2045 under a bill the state passed in 2015.


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