U of M receives grant for marine energy research, workforce development

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A US$600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow the University of Minnesota's St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) to launch a new collaborative project to advance research, innovation and training in marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technology.

The two-year grant is being provided via the foundation's Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity program and will "promote the growing MHK industry by enhancing the performance and resilience of MHK technologies while ensuring environmental compatibility," according to an SAFL release.

Much of the research done will center around New York's 1.05-MW Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) project, which became the first tidal project to ever earn Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing in January 2012.

"This partnership strategically positions SAFL to spearhead the development and growth of MHK renewable energy technology to support the national goal of 80% of U.S. electricity produced from clean energy sources by 2035," SAFL director Fotis Sotiropoulos said.

The laboratory said the effort will combine its computational modeling and research capabilities with Verdant Power's industry and field expertise, plus the materials science and manufacturing of Energetx Composites, Inc. Verdant is developing the project, while Energetx is supplying materials.

"This unique partnership brings together forward-thinking research and innovation around tidal and river current energy opportunities for the U.S.," said Verdant Power Director of Technology Dean Corren.

Researchers at SAFL will develop a "high-performance computing simulation toolbox" that will provide an in-depth understanding of how turbines perform in real-life aquatic environments, SAFL said. Information will then be used to not only improve turbine design, but also to optimize Roosevelt Island's array. Eventually, the site is to house as many as 30 tidal energy units.

"The tools produced at SAFL allow us to make significant strides toward enhancing the technology for widespread commercial application," Corren said.

The grant will also be used to improve the MHK workforce through the development of a four-year hydrology degree program at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont.

For more ocean, tidal and stream power news, visit here.

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