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FAU’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center Successfully Tests Research Turbine Offshore

BOCA RATON, Fla. (March 10, 2014) – Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) recently conducted the first at-sea tests of its ocean current research turbine offshore Fort Pierce.  Two, one-hour tow tests provided researchers with new data on the turbine’s behavior for further design, development and validation.

“With this important milestone, we have collected the first in situ data of our turbine to compare with numerical models,” said Bill Baxley, chief engineer of FAU’s SNMREC. “Before, we only had computer-generated results, but now we can better simulate the performance of our turbine for future modifications.”

The Center has designed and built a small-scale research turbine at FAU that with a three-meter diameter rotor, has the capacity to generate up to 20 kW of power in a two-and-a-half-meter per second (five knot) flow, similar to conditions found in the Florida Current.  This turbine is currently used by researchers to investigate technical and environmental challenges of harnessing ocean currents.

The SNMREC turbine’s purpose is to assist commercial turbine developers with testing components; provide an opportunity to address gaps in technology; and serve as a fully evaluated research platform to benchmark ocean current concept performance.

During the first test, the rotor hub was fixed to evaluate a “locked rotor” condition.  The second test simulated a “free-wheeling” condition where the rotor was allowed to freely rotate.  Both tests provided valuable data about the turbine’s hydrodynamics while under tow.  Along with three underwater cameras, the SNMREC team monitored incoming current flow, the motion of the turbine and the tension of the electro-mechanical-optical cable used to tow the turbine.

“Although the turbine wasn’t generating electricity, it was thrilling to watch the rotor spinning underwater, especially since we have worked so hard to reach this point in our research,” said Susan Skemp, SNMREC executive director. “We’re looking forward to future tests when we will integrate the electrical and mechanical systems.”

The turbine’s generator and instrumentation systems are currently being  tested and configured in a laboratory environment before eventual integration with the turbine’s drivetrain and body.  SNMREC engineers and researchers hope to tow the turbine again during the summer, when it is expected to generate electricity for the first time.

For more information about this project, including video from the tow test, visit the website at, or contact Susan Skemp at 561-297-2339 or


About the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) :
Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Ocean Energy Technology was founded with a $5 million award from the State of Florida in January 2007 to help ocean energy technologies become cost-competitive with existing power technologies. In August 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy designated it as a national center for ocean energy research and development to advance the operational readiness of ocean energy technologies. With that designation, the center became known as the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC).  The SNMREC is collaborating with industry partners to investigate, refine, fabricate, and test promising next-generation water power technologies to harness the oceans’ vast energy potential.  The Center’s researchers have deployed ocean current observation systems, measured environmental baselines to evaluate potential effects, and prepared support infrastructure for ocean energy equipment testing.  The Center will ultimately assist with full-scale field testing of prototype turbine devices, a necessary step toward successful commercialization of ocean energy technologies.  As a public institution of higher education, FAU is also promoting public awareness of ocean energy research and development, and is developing curricula to educate a workforce for this new industry.  For more information, visit .

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit

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