Project Details

Comprehensive Ocean Current, Wave, and Wind Energy Resource Assessment Using an Integrated Observing and Modeling Approach

Sponsor: UNC Coastal Studies Institute

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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill: John Bane

Funding Period

July 2021 - June 2022


Supported by the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NC ROEP), our team has been developing an integrated Observing-Modeling Prediction and Assessment System to guide the optimal extraction of ocean kinetic energy from the Gulf Stream off the coast of North Carolina. Model development is being conducted at NC State under the direction of PI R. He. To inform the model, M. Muglia of the UNC Coastal Studies Institute, under NC ROEP support to the CSI, continues making regional oceanographic observations to provide a crucial dataset to validate and refine NC State’s ocean circulation model. This ocean model fills data gaps and provides temporally and spatially continuous, four-dimensional (xyzt) circulation fields, which have supported the analyses of the Gulf Stream’s energy generation potential (including the magnitude of energy available and its variations in time and space) that co-PI J. Bane and his team at UNC have been conducting.

As a part of this modeling effort, we have implemented online multi-level nesting technology that is able to simulate ocean circulation around Cape Hatteras at 800 m horizontal resolution. At this resolution, the model (after full calibration) is able to better resolve both mesoscale and sub- mesoscale ocean processes associated with the Gulf Stream, and make comparisons with observations collected at a similar spatial resolution (e.g., HF radar surface current fields). We have also been working on and testing data assimilation (DA) to refine our ocean model hindcast.

Our work will enable us to produce the best available quantitative descriptions of numerous aspects of the ocean environment that relate to marine renewable power generation along the NC continental slope and outer continental shelf. The resulting information will be very valuable in engineering considerations, array design, and environmental assessment; and it will develop an improved understanding of the character and causes of current variability in this region.

Our research findings and observational and modeling products feed directly into other NC ROEP projects. As in the past, we will continue interactions with other ROEP groups, including those led by M. Muglia (ECU-CSI), L. Dubbs (ECU-CSI), J. DeCarolis (NCSU), and C. Vermillion (NCSU). Together, we provide key scientific information and feasibility analyses for the State to make decisions about economic development related to marine renewable ocean energy.