Florida’s SNMREC scores $360K for ocean power research

Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) has received $360,000 grant for undergraduate research into power generation from ocean currents.

The grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation, will be used for a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) project titled ‘Removing Barriers to Ocean Current Based Electricity through Undergraduate Research.’

SNMREC’s REU is designed to engage high-potential undergraduates in research activities in order to encourage their pursuit of graduate study in STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) disciplines, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary career paths.

James VanZwieten, principal investigator of the grant and an assistant research professor at FAU’s SNMREC, said: “We will have a total of 10 projects during each year of the award. All of our REU student scholars will be instrumental in helping to progress the ocean industry by contributing knowledge in many different areas that are needed to responsibly and rapidly commercialize technology.”

Projects will include three key focus areas: resources assessment; system design and reliability; and environmental interactions.

Student scholars of the SNMREC REU will play an integral role in advancing ocean current resource assessment science by helping to improve oceanic flow modeling techniques, developing autonomous underwater vehicle measurement techniques, and advancing wave and buoyancy-driven glider measurement capabilities.

Projects related to system design and reliability will focus on increasing energy extraction efficiency and reducing equipment failures.

Florida Atlantic University (FAU) also said that projects designed to understand and mitigate potential environmental effects will include advancing a LiDAR imaging approach for underwater video of marine animals, improving automated animal identification algorithms for classifying marine species near underwater turbines as well as predicting their proximity to the turbines, and looking at the potential effects of electromagnetic fields on marine life.

These measures are expected to help scientists better understand marine environments where energy capture devices will be installed.

In this regard, FAU’s SNMREC is currently seeking 10 undergraduate researchers who will be engaged in the paid 10-week program.

SNMREC REU students will be integrated into existing research groups and will receive hands-on mentoring from FAU faculty members, and will have access to state-of-the-art facilities and platforms for their projects, the University said.

Anton Post, executive director of FAU’s Harbor Branch who spearheads the ocean science pillar, said: “Ocean science, which encompasses engineering and environmental sciences, is one of Florida Atlantic University’s four areas of strength that define our institutional programs.

“Harnessing energy from our oceans is an important contribution to our national energy needs and bringing undergraduate researchers into the fold will only help to enhance our efforts to create knowledge in this field that will benefit society.”

FAU’s SNMREC is a US Department of Energy and a state of Florida designated research and development center focused on enabling the safe and responsible commercialization of marine renewables in the US, Florida, and the world. The center’s initial focus has been on open-ocean currents like the Gulf Stream and how they might be harnessed for utility-scale power generation.

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