Newell: Louisiana Wind Energy Hub to supercharge the green energy industry

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Photo credit Wind turbines in the water

The Beach at UNO is a rebranding of the Research and Technology Park on campus - that’s where so much of the foundation and innovation for energy production in our region starts. Now, the Beach has launched the Louisiana Wind Energy Hub. I spoke with President and CEO of the Beach at UNO Rebecca Conwell, and Shafin Khan, the Vice President of External Affairs and Innovation about this new hub and what it means for producing renewable energy in the Gulf South.

What is the goal of all this, and what are the next steps?

SK: The wind energy hub is designed to leverage the expertise of the University of New Orleans and the expertise of the Beach. On the UNO side, there's a lot of great expertise related to energy research, offshore structure design, ship design, and a variety of engineering disciplines. We look to merge that with startup development, new technology development, and community building aspects that the Beach has to offer. We're going to be supporting emerging companies, spurring the development of new technology, and supplying a trained workforce to become the engineers and leaders of this rapidly growing renewable energy sector.

A bunch of offshore oil companies have pivoted and are now directing a lot of their attention towards wind energy. It seems like there's this path and this opportunity for y'all to do the same thing.

RC: UNO has done such an amazing job of supplying a workforce through our very talented engineers for oil and gas. It's a natural progression that we blend our expertise in naval architecture and engineering with the existing engineering program to add another layer of concentration. There's really no officially stated programs in Gulf wind innovation at any university… we launched a $100,000 innovation fund with the majority of those dollars going towards incentivizing the innovation activity and the scholars program to entice more engineering students into this field.

SK: One of the things that we're working on with UNO is creating opportunities for engineers to become essentially certified in offshore wind. We're creating a variety of certifications through some of our relationships that we're building through this hub. We have industry partners that will bring students on as interns or have summer programs, so these students are getting classroom experience - but they’re also getting that firsthand industry experience as well.

The Louisiana 2022 Climate Action Plan includes a goal of creating five gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2035, but bigger than that is it calls for a lot of collaboration among a lot of different players in this field - where do you envision the hub being in the years to come?

SK: The success of offshore wind sites is mostly determined by making the economics of power generated there worthwhile. Partnering with energy providers and using new technology to bring down costs and producing an efficient transmission of the energy from wind turbines are all areas of opportunity that need to be solved. That’s where our hub kind of comes in. The hub will  innovate and create support services, support products, and new technologies that will solve  those critical needs.