Eddies and Ocean Energy Potential in Southeast Florida
Mingshun Jiang, Ph.D
Affiliated Home Campus: Harbor Branch
Affiliated Department: Harbor Branch Oceanographic Insitute
Ian Robertson worked as an investigator under Dr. Mingshun Jiang to study the potential for ocean (hydrokinetic) energy generation from ocean currents off the coast of South Florida (from Miami to West Palm Beach), focusing on the patterns of ocean eddies and analyzing output of the Regional Oceanographic Modeling System (ROMS) model. Transient submesoscale eddies (about 10-30km in diameter) are tornado-like features in the ocean, formed from circular vortices of water. Such eddies regularly propagate north along the Florida coast near the shore. They cause current reversals and fluctuations in energy availability which could impact the harvesting of hydrokinetic energy in a particular region. To analyze eddies on the South Florida coast, multiple versions of the ROMS model were evaluated and various features of eddies such as size, frequency, and energy were examined. In addition, the overall energy available from the Florida Current was analyzed using the ROMS model and compared with both Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) data and results from a lower resolution HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM). The results of this analysis are contributing to a broader, long-term ocean energy assessment by the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) and provide an evaluation of ROMS as a tool for such assessments. Findings suggest that ROMS is very useful for understanding submesoscale eddies and may be a beneficial tool for providing energy estimates, although further adjustments to the model are necessary to bring simulations closer to ADCP data.