Harnessing the Power of the Seas When Generating Sustainable, Floating Wind Power; Wind Energy Development and Anticipatory Governance in California Energy Transitions

Golson, Cydnie, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Momot, Michael, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Foley, Rider, Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

In response to a lack of federal action, California instated aggressive state-wide goals to address climate change, including having 60% renewable energy in its portfolio by 2030. Localities within California are charged with overseeing this transition from the traditional “out of sight and out of mind” fossil fuel infrastructure to that of soaring wind turbines, fields of solar panels, and glimmering solar-laden roofs. The defective community engagement process surrounding this development has led to large amounts of social opposition, thus my research seeks to expose improvements to support California’s goals to both quickly and equitably transition to a cleaner grid. In response to social opposition to land-based systems, floating offshore wind technologies (FOWTs) have fallen into the spotlight. Seeing that they are a relatively new technology, however, a number of barriers remain with regard to the cost of production, process for deployment, and ability to be maintained once they are in operation. My team developed concepts to passively stabilize the structure, allowing for less expensive manufacturing processes and components as well as simplifying future maintenance. Both our Naturally Pressurized Base (NPB) and improved Principle Power (PP) systems performed better than the control for the case of stability amidst high waves. The PP base with chains added beneath the structure and Styrofoam added to the base legs performed best overall.
It is important to consider the social dimensions of the development process of this new technology in order to ensure that the same mistakes are not committed in the community engagement process, leading to further delays, wasted funds, and general discontentment within the community. The theory of Anticipatory Governance applies to this problem, depicting a process by which to ensure that community values and concerns are meaningfully elucidated and incorporated into the development process to prevent future opposition as well as generate a more cohesive environment for all. I compare two case studies, that of the stakeholder involvement processes leading to the failed TerraGen onshore wind project in Humboldt County, California and those of the ongoing floating offshore wind advances in the area. Information comes from interviews, agency reports, and local news outlets. Through this research I found places in which the engagement process could become more meaningful and involve more cross-stakeholder conversation, improve in helping the community envision what the future of energy infrastructure in their area might look like, as well as better integrate their ideas, values, and concerns into the materialized future of the county’s energy infrastructure. The implications of the enhanced FOWT stabilization technology and the presented stakeholder engagement recommendations when considered in concert are that California will have actionable ideas to bolster their climate action plan from a number of angles, influencing the transition’s ultimate speed and justness.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Momot, wind energy, wind, renewable , renewable energy, anticipatory governance, interviews, community engagement, community, environmental justice, sustainability, mechanical, floating offshore wind turbines, wind turbines, California, case study, case comparison

School of Engineering and Applied Science Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Michael Momot
STS Advisor: Rider Foley
Technical Team Members: Ahmed Abdelnabi, Kelly Boenisch, Kyle Dana, Emily Fedroff

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