With Global Ambitions, Rutgers Engineers and Scientists Launch Wind Energy Research Center

A rendering of the interior of the proposed WET Center, where scholars from a variety of academic fields will explore the science and technology underpinning next-generation wind energy production. The S/L/A/M Collaborative

Multidisciplinary collaboration involving three schools and multiple departments will combine efforts of environmental and marine scientists as well as engineers

A Rutgers research project focused on offshore wind energy is poised to make New Jersey a global leader in the field in a little more than a decade.

The effort being launched by Rutgers researchers includes two key components: The design of a so-called Net-Zero Wind Energy Test (WET) Center, a warehouse-size testing facility to be potentially located somewhere close to the Jersey Shore; and the creation of a much smaller WET Lab which will be located on the Rutgers University–New Brunswick campus.

The new venture, which aims to address scientific and engineering challenges in testing a floating offshore wind turbine, will position Rutgers at the center of what is expected to be one of the most ambitious wind power research projects in the United States.

The project is one of four winning proposals selected for funding in March 2023 by Rutgers–New Brunswick Chancellor Francine Conway as part of her Chancellor Challenge fostering the development of transformational, campus-wide initiatives to fulfill the goals of Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Academic Master Plan.

“This outstanding project was selected through a rigorous, competitive review of proposals to catalyze exploration, collaboration, concept-testing and risk-taking,” Conway said. “Its success will rest on the efforts of cross-disciplinary teams from multiple Rutgers–New Brunswick units. Importantly, it focuses the power of our research on a grand challenge of science and society.”

The effort will capitalize on a surge of support for wind energy, including public funds that Gov. Phil Murphy invested into wind power development through the Wind Institute for Innovation and Training.

“Our broad vision is that, by 2035, New Jersey will be among the global leaders in offshore wind energy research, technology development and testing, and that Rutgers will be globally known for its multidisciplinary approach to the economics, engineering and the social and environmental science and policy of wind energy,” said Onur Bilgen, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the Rutgers School of Engineering (SOE).

Bilgen is leading the project with Josh Kohut, co-founder of the Center for Ocean Observing Leadership and a professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences in the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS).

The effort will receive about $1.1 million from the Rutgers–New Brunswick Chancellor’s Office.

The WET Center is one of the first flagship interdisciplinary projects of the newly created Rutgers Climate and Energy Institute (RCEI), announced by Conway in October, and which is another initiative of Rutgers–New Brunswick’s Academic Master Plan

 “The WET Center is a signature investment into cutting-edge climate change and renewable energy scholarship and education through RCEI,” said Julie Lockwood, RCEI’s interim director and a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources at SEBS. “Its innovative design fosters collaboration among scholars from a variety of academic fields, which enhances the impact of Rutgers on next-generation wind energy production.”