Developing an Integrated Marine Environment Observation and Prediction System in Support of NC Energy Initiatives


NC State Professor Roy He is leading a collaborative partnership between NC State and Avangrid Renewables, Shell, Raytheon, Fathom Science, and the Department of Energy to refine and implement state-of-the-art marine environment observing and prediction (both hindcast and forecast) capabilities that can support wind, current, and wave energy development, possible hydrocarbon exploration, and risk mitigation offshore of NC.

Dr. He will integrate newly developed state-of-the-art, data assimilative, coupled ocean-atmosphere-wave modeling systems with a carefully designed observing network and emerging powerful cloud-computing technology to generate accurate, real-time marine environmental predictions at a horizontal spatial resolution of ~100 m. Real-time ocean prediction at such a scale is comparable to the highest spatial resolution observations available today. The system will be fully capable of addressing multi-disciplinary coastal and marine problems, as well as enhancing an understanding of the complex physics that arise from the confluence of very different water masses off NC and their interactions with the atmosphere.

The impact of this proposed ocean observation and prediction system extends beyond academia into practical, applied, high-tech industries and vital environmental interests. In 2017, Avangrid Renewables, an experienced wind farm development company, made the winning bid for the lease of 122,000 acres centered ~25 miles off the coast of NC’s northern Outer Banks. There they plan to establish an offshore electricity-generating wind farm. The optimal engineering design of this wind farm depends upon detailed knowledge of the spatial and temporal characteristics of the local wind field, including wind turbulence and shear, and the resulting dynamic forces impacting the long-term performance of the wind turbines. Likewise, information on ocean waves and currents is critical to turbine foundation, mast and nacelle design, and turbine array geometry. This crucial information can be provided by Dr. He’s system.

Dr. He received two new grants that will serve to leverage KIETS funding for this project. 1.) “Comprehensive Gulf Stream Ocean Energy Resource Assessment Using an Integrated Observing and Modeling Approach”, NC Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP), $36,090 and 2.) “NSF AI Institute for research on trustworthy AI in weather, climate, and coastal oceanography”, $2,499,186.