Contact Person: Smith, Shawn R.
Collaborators: S. Cocke, M. Powell
Institutions: Florida State University, NOAA
Funding Agency: IESES (Florida States University)
Start: Jan 2009 End: December 2010
Abstract: Proposals for offshore wind farms along the United States coastline are growing in number. Two main considerations are used in the determination of a region's potential for wind power: shallow water depths and wind speed values large enough to produce profitable wind power quantities. The Northern Gulf of Mexico lies above the West Florida shelf and is known to experience strong large-scale diurnal flow regimes, including sea/land breeze circulations. Until recently, lack of surface observations in this area has been a limiting factor in producing an accurate measure of whether or not an offshore wind farm is a viable option. The Northern Gulf of Mexico Cooperative Institute (NGI) has supported surface atmospheric and oceanic measurements at Air Force tower number 7 (N7) in the Apalachicola Bay since October 2008. This newly acquired data provides a primary resource for the author's analysis of potential wind power generation for the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Wind power potential is assessed using three sources. Surface observations are used from the NGI tower number 7 (N7) and the National Data Buoy Center's Tyndall AFB Tower C (N4). North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) model data is compared to observed data to establish whether models can serve as a reliable source for determining potential wind generation in areas where in situ data is not available. Wind speed, air temperature, dew point, and water temperature are used to calculate the average raw hourly power density at anemometer height (30 m) and at a typical wind turbine hub height (85 m). Two methods are used in adjusting the 30 m in situ and model wind speeds to the 85 meters needed: a crude adjustment using the power law and the BVW (Bourassa-Vincent-Wood) flux and sea state model. For a GE 3.6 MW offshore turbine to reach minimum production it must encounter wind speeds above 3.5 m/s and maximum production is reached at 14.5 m/s. The average wind speed for the N4 and N7 towers at 30 m ranged from 5-7 m/s and increased by about 1-2 m/s after adjusting to 85 m. The log adjustment of the wind speed reveals about a 0.5 m/s more of and increase than the BVW model. A comparison to the NARR model indicates that using approximated data underestimates the available wind power in a region. The extremes found in the observed data are simply not seen in the model data. Overall, the northwestern Gulf of Mexico does show the potential in making several thousand megawatts of power available to homes in Florida.