Project Details

Developing an Integrated Modeling-Observing Prediction and Assessment System in Support of North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Studies

Sponsor: UNC Coastal Studies Institute

Coastal Studies Institute logo


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: John Bane, Sara Haines, and Caroline Lowcher
University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute: Mike Muglia

Funding Period

July 2013 – June 2015


The ocean offers significant potential for electrical power generation from strong ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream. Wise use of such renewable ocean energy can effectively and economically fulfill part of our regional energy needs, reduce national dependence on non-renewable energy sources, and help create jobs and economic opportunities. Previous research efforts supported by the North Carolina Ocean Energy Program have identified an offshore area estimated to be the best location for ocean energy extraction from the Gulf Stream for North Carolina. This area has been chosen for further consideration based on resource availability, environmental consideration, and engineering and economic constraints.

This project builds upon previous efforts that developed a combined modeling-observational prediction system to guide the optimal development of ocean energy extraction from the Gulf Stream off the coast of North Carolina. This ocean model filled data gaps and provided temporally- and spatially-continuous, four-dimensional (x, y, z, t) circulation fields, which supported the analysis of the Gulf Stream’s energy generation potential (including the magnitude of energy available and its variations in time and from location to location).

In FY 2014-2015, our project team expanded upon regional oceanographic modeling and observations by:

  1. Continuing moored & ship-based Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) sampling
  2. Conducting surface current radar sampling and analyses for high frequency GS mapping
  3. Performing ocean model refinements; generate improved multi-year circulation hindcast
  4. Continuing performing quantitative model-data comparisons
  5. Determining long-term Gulf Stream current and power characteristics at potential turbine sites using both observed and modeled ocean current results, and
  6. Delivering the best possible modeled ocean circulation information to the resource/cost assessment team.