Ready for Renewable Energy

The Department of the Interior recently expanded the role of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) as federal offshore energy regulator to include oversight of workplace safety and environmental compliance functions related to offshore renewable energy development. One of the most viable and analytically essential ways BSEE meets this new mission is through its management of Ohmsett.

As the offshore clean energy industry makes advancements in harnessing energy from wind and water, Ohmsett, the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility, is positioned to be a significant national asset in the advancement of marine renewable energy development. Located in Leonardo, New Jersey, Ohmsett is managed by the BSEE and is a unique resource to test and evaluate advancements in renewable energy systems and their ability to meet environmental requirements.

Controlled Testing at its Finest

“Ohmsett is internationally recognized as the premier facility to develop or assess oil spill response equipment, as well as performing kinetic wave studies,” said Karen Stone, BSEE Response Research Branch Chief. She adds, “as the largest outdoor saltwater wave/tow tank facility in North America, it provides a perfect location for testing, research, and training in a marine environment under controlled environmental conditions.”

Ohmsett enables evaluation activities within the massive 667-foot-long above-ground wave and tow tank, filled with 2.6 million gallons of saltwater. The technical staff simulates realistic marine environments for testing technology to determine conformance to surface wave conditions of various wave heights, wavelengths, frequencies, and general durability.


Ohmsett National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Testing Facility in Leonardo, N.J. (Image credit: Ohmsett)

“This gives manufacturers the means to validate their engineering expectations under varying flow, position, and load conditions and helps them improve their design cycles,” said Jane-Ellen Delgado, marketing director at Applied Research Associates, Inc., the contracted service provider at Ohmsett.

Starting as early as 2009, the technical staff at Ohmsett began assisting marine energy developers and researchers with rigorous testing for hydrodynamic energy devices, as well as addressing the cleanup challenges of accidental discharges of lubricating fluids.

In 2010, Louisiana State University (LSU) performed a field study at Ohmsett to determine the dispersibility of dielectric fluid used for insulating wind turbine generators at sea and sought to determine the capabilities and limitations of three oleophilic skimmers to demonstrate recovery of this fluid. The week-long series of tests also included full-scale dispersant application for measuring dielectric fluid droplet size and concentration to ascertain dispersant effectiveness. Ohmsett technical staff further provided quantitative data to support analyses by the LSU researchers.

Informing Future Development

BSEE Director Kevin Sligh, states, “the scientific data collected at Ohmsett will continue to inform BSEE’s work to regulate the development of oil and gas offshore and will also be critical as we work to fulfill our expanded role for oversight of a safe, robust, sustainable, and environmentally responsible renewable energy industry.”

“These projects provide objective data to inform future development of response procedures and response equipment for the renewable energy industry,” said Frank Jurado III, BSEE Ohmsett Manager.

The Department of Energy (DOE) designated Ohmsett as a partner with their Testing and Expertise for Marine Energy (TEAMER) program in 2022. Marine energy technology developers from around the world apply for DOE funding through TEAMER by matching their research requirements to Ohmsett’s capabilities. Upon approval by DOE, the applicant can pursue testing and evaluation at Ohmsett.


A 250-kg, 1:15 scale model of this floating wave energy conversion buoy will be tested at Ohmsett. (Image credit: Ohmsett)

“As a member of the TEAMER Facility Network, Ohmsett collaborates with marine energy developers through testing and evaluation of surface wave energy converters, subsurface wave energy converters, surface current converters, and near-shore tidal wash converters at-scale, as well as technology used for the Blue Economy,” said Delgado.

Ohmsett will host its first TEAMER applicant—University College Cork, Ireland—in the first half of 2023 to demonstrate wave energy conversion by a floating 250 kg, 1:15 scale device. Under varying wave conditions, the oscillating water column compresses air within a chamber to spin a turbine capable of generating electric output. As the wave passes by the unit, negative air pressure is created within the chamber to further spin the turbine.

“BSEE’s investment of expertise to support the efficient and reliable generation of wind, hydrokinetic, and solar energy will help reduce pollution and help further growth in the burgeoning offshore renewable energy industry,” said Jurado.

BSEE will incorporate the expertise of engineers, inspectors, scientists, and technical experts to continue to build upon the offshore renewable energy team in anticipation of large-scale offshore wind energy development.

BSEE continues to work closely with state and federal partners, stakeholders, and industry leaders to develop and design processes, policies, and procedures that oversee the fabrication, installation, operation, and decommissioning of offshore renewable energy facilities. Interagency agreements with the US Coast Guard, US Army Corps of Engineers, and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory will bring additional expertise to the program.

For more information, visit: https://ohmsett.bsee.gov/

This feature appeared in Environment, Coastal & Offshore (ECO) Magazine's 2023 Spring edition Sustainable Ocean Exploration, to read more access the magazine here.

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