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The University of Delaware (UD) is leading an effort to spark conversation and action among government and industry in hopes of advancing the embryonic U.S. offshore wind industry.

According to UD, the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind (SIOW) will serve as an independent catalyst for offshore wind development and add momentum to a promising industry that is at a critical juncture. The non-commercial offshore wind program is designed to draw together critical information on cutting-edge technologies, financing and collaboration opportunities, UD notes.

Although housed at UD's College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, the SIOW will be national in scope and already is playing a key role in major projects to harness the vast East Coast and Great Lakes wind resources, according to the university.

SIOW will also aim to connect states with international experts - especially in Europe, where more than 2,000 wind turbines are now installed and grid connected in 11 countries. UD says the resource will provide advice to all states exploring offshore wind and help advance customized policy models.

UD notes that the effort has the support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which will provide $250,000 in seed funding, as well as other philanthropic organizations.

“The Special Initiative on Offshore Wind will be a platform for catalyzing multi-sector collaboration and innovation to advance offshore wind,” says Michael Northrop, program director for sustainable development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. “The time is now; there is a huge opportunity here to tap the East Coast’s largest renewable resource and spur a whole new industry.”

For offshore wind to be deployed in the U.S., UD notes utilities must buy electricity from offshore wind projects, with state support for offshore wind contracts. While the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind will not facilitate contracts or state approval of them, the university says it will advocate the value proposition of offshore wind, such as the price-suppression effect and net environmental benefits, explains offshore wind energy veteran Stephanie McClellan, who will lead the effort.

McClellan, who joined the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment in January, previously worked for the Google-financed Atlantic Wind Connection, the proposed transmission backbone slated for the mid-Atlantic.

Given the university’s history of advancing offshore wind through policy analysis, research, public testimony and industrial partnerships, McClellan notes that UD is well equipped to take a leadership position.

For example, in 2010 UD and Gamesa Technology Corp. joined forces to install a utility-scale 2 MW coastal wind turbine at the university’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Del., allowing Gamesa to test the turbine in a coastal environment and students to conduct training and research on the turbine.

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