Prof. Onur Bilgen Receives ARPA-E Funding for Transformational Energy Technology

Award supports development of software for design of floating offshore wind turbines

Onur Bilgen (main PI) and Laurent Burlion (co-PI), assistant professors in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, were recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Their project is one of 13 new projects receiving a combined total of $26 million in funding to develop new technologies for floating offshore wind turbines, or wind farms, using the discipline of control co-design.  Other collaborators on this award are University of Michigan, Brigham Young University, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Technical University of Denmark, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Travis Miles (Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University) and Ruo-Qian Wang (Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rutgers University). 

The multi-disciplinary team received this competitive award from ARPA-E’s Aerodynamic Turbines Lighter and Afloat with Nautical Technologies and Integrated Servo-control (ATLANTIS) program. The program focuses on three areas critical to the successful development of radically new floating offshore wind turbines (FOWTs): new designs; new computer tools; and experiments that collect data to validate the FOWT designs and computer tools. ATLANTIS teams will collaborate towards devising a fully integrated FOWT.

The team of faculty experts, funded graduate research assistants, and post-doctoral researchers will use the award to develop a software for designing highly efficient and cost-effective FOWTs. By combining two approaches – control co-design and mixed-fidelity modeling for design optimization – an offshore wind turbine will be able generate electricity efficiently while reducing manufacturing, maintenance, and operational costs.

According to Bilgen, while offshore wind turbines tend to be more efficient than their onshore counterparts, they cost considerably more. “Without accurate and complete modeling of a wind turbine with all of its interacting components, such as wind, water, soil, structural, electrical and economic dynamics, we cannot design the best turbine for a given site, and we cannot decisively compare the efficiency metrics or costs of different designs. Our project aims to enable us to do just this,” he says.

Bilgen and his team plans to use their software to design a FOWT that generates more electricity while using fewer materials to manufacture it, and while reducing its maintenance and operational costs. “Others will be able to use our software to design the next generation of wind turbines for their sites that will reduce the cost of electricity for consumers,” he explains.

Ultimately, New Jersey – with its offshore coastal locations – is an ideal location for Bilgen’s project, which has the potential to create jobs in New Jersey by attracting venture capital support for start-ups wishing to manufacture wind turbines.

“We are honored to be selected for this competitive grant,” says Bilgen. “It will help our team make an invaluable societal impact. It is this future impact that really excites me the most.”