MassCEC is scaling the offshore heights

By Steven Froias | For the New Bedford Ocean Cluster

This recent blog post from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), managers of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, caught the eye:

We often understand the coming offshore wind boom through statistics, but have we thought about what those numbers really mean? 

“How big is a 14-megawatt turbine, really? What is it like standing on top of a 300-foot turbine (30 stories)? What does it mean to train 77,000 new workers nationwide in the next few years – many of whom have never seen a turbine outside of a textbook? “

Naturally, the New Bedford Ocean Ocean Cluster is here for you. So, to help followers understand the scale of offshore wind energy turbines, we created the graphic you see above! (We like to have a bit more fun than MassCEC. If you’re receiving this post via email, click through to the website to view.) 

Of course, Kong and Godzilla aren’t real – except in theaters now and on HBO Max.  But they do help illustrate a point, which MassCEC makes in their post…

“Training for offshore wind requires specialized skills and focus. In addition to the complex technicalities of installing, operating, and maintaining turbines, workers must do so safely in difficult environments. Each of the thousands of new workers need realistic training, as early and as frequently as possible.”

Enter…virtual reality!

Just like our favorite childhood monsters exist only thanks to CGI special effects, MassCEC is seeking to essentially employ a version of that  technology for offshore wind energy training. 

Which means that 10,000 hours a week you spend playing video games might actually come in handy for your future career!

One challenge for the U.S. offshore wind industry is the difficulty and costs associated with setting up training facilities, MassCEC writes. “Nacelles – the structure at the top of a wind turbine tower holding mechanical and hydraulic equipment and to which the blades attach – weigh north of 640 metric tons, making them difficult to store safely in a facility.  

“There are only seven operational offshore wind turbines in the country (two in federal waters off the coast of Virginia, and five just off Block Island in Rhode Island state waters). This means workers for early U.S. projects will likely have to fly to Europe for onsite training. 

“For disadvantaged communities, which already face significant barriers to workforce participation, these location-specific challenges may further restrict career opportunities in the industry.”

To help solve the issue, Mass CEC has awarded grants to two companies, VinciVR, in partnership with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, to develop simulated environments – nacelles, wind farms, and ports – utilizing Virtual Reality (VR) technology.  These simulated environments will be used to provide highly technical and realistic offshore wind training to future workers in this emerging industry, they believe. 

Vinci is a Massachusetts-based VR company, and has extensive experience developing similar VR training for the US Air Force and Special Operations units.  “This military personnel training faces similar challenges to those in offshore wind,” they write – and may be helpful in preventing attacks from Godzilla, too, but that’s classified. 

Siemens Gamesa is the leading provider of offshore wind turbines, and its facility in Orlando, Florida – Kong climate – facilitates all training across operations in North and South America for the company.

“Together, we are developing a true-to-scale VR simulation of an offshore wind nacelle to teach the Global Wind Organisation (GWO)-certified Basic Technical Training (BTT) module for offshore wind installation,” the blog states. Which proves that it wasn’t written by any Hollywood script writer because that one sentence alone will make your eyes glaze over. 

But, they mean well. Indeed, the end credits run like this: our long-term vision is to create a library of training content and environments open to other GWO course providers, and potentially other technical training for offshore wind.”  

“We also see exciting opportunities to make offshore wind VR simulations available to the general public interested in learning more about offshore wind installations. Our vision is to bring a nacelle to every classroom, a wind farm to every school, and a passion to learn and build in every student and trainee.”

Which means…stay tuned for the sequel – and get ready for your close-up in the offshore wind energy industry.

It’s not CGI – it’s the new reality. 

 

|| The New Bedford Ocean Cluster will keep you up to date, and as always, if you’re interested in aligning your marine-based service, business or organization with the cluster, contact us at renewables@newbedfordoceancluster.org.