Offshore Wind Skills Academy
Photo by Evan Krape April 03, 2019
UD hosts classes to educate those interested in the emerging global industry
Having completed almost 20 years in the Coast Guard, Michael Fisher decided that he wanted to transition into a new career.
Because of his interest in renewable energy for environmental protection, his maritime experience and his love of the ocean and maritime environment, Fisher said he thought that the offshore wind industry would be a perfect fit. To learn more about the industry, Fisher participated in the first Offshore Wind Skills Academy classes, held March 11-15 at the University of Delaware.
He said the workshop was a “good opportunity to learn and get a broad overview of the industry and where my potential skill sets could fit, as well as meet contacts.”
The academy is the first offshore wind skills training program in the United States to focus on professionals and managers.
It was created by Willett Kempton and John Madsen, professors in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment (CEOE) and its Center for Research in Wind (CReW), where they study various aspects of wind energy. As the directors of the Offshore Wind Skills Academy, they worked with their partner, the Energy and Climate Academy of Denmark, to create a curriculum combining specifics about the American regulatory and policy environment with technical and engineering details learned over decades in the European offshore wind market.
Madsen said that he and Kempton were grateful to CEOE and CReW for the funding and support of the inaugural academy.
“Taking advantage of the excellent feedback from our participants and instructors, we are currently planning for the next offering of the University’s Offshore Wind Skills Academy,” said Madsen.
Instructors at the inaugural academy, which was held at the Tower at STAR, included representatives from the United States and Europe from organizations such as the Bureau for Ocean Energy and Management (BOEM), the turbine installation company A2Sea, and Ørsted, a global leader in offshore wind development with 25 operational offshore wind farms around the world.
Fisher said he enjoyed speaking with the people from Europe who have been involved in the wind industry since the 1980s and have watched the offshore wind industry grow from the very beginning. He also enjoyed the networking aspects of the workshop and having the opportunity to meet with instructors who are working in the industry in addition to the people who were taking the course.
“This workshop gives you a really broad understanding from the whole project conception and permitting to operation and maintenance,” said Fisher. “We’ve seen that whole picture of the industry.”
The first week of the Offshore Wind Skills Academy included two one-day Overview and Comprehensive Introduction to Offshore Wind classes on Monday and Tuesday with a three-day Advanced Project Development course closing out the week from Wednesday-Friday.
Sierra Davis, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Management Fellow placed with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said that she got interested in wind energy after doing her master’s degree at the University of Rhode Island. During her master’s program, she helped with research on seafloor characteristics surrounding the United States’ first offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Block Island.
She was interested in attending the workshop because she wanted to learn more about the industry, especially since it’s something that is getting brought up more frequently in ocean planning in the United States.
“I am excited that right here in Delaware, we have the opportunity to learn from Europeans who have been leaders in this industry,” said Davis.
Having been involved in permitting different types of projects as part of her Delaware-based fellowship, Davis said she was also interested in learning about the current regulatory and permitting processes for offshore wind farms in the United States.
Kris Ohleth serves as the senior manager of stakeholder engagement for Ørsted, but to expand her knowledge of steps after the stakeholder process, she was one of the industry professionals taking the class. She said that she wanted to increase her technical understanding of some of the more specific areas around offshore wind, such as financing, foundation installation and contracting. The academy is designed to help all kinds of professionals, in the industry or looking to enter it, build their skills and increase the capacity of the U.S. energy sector to build out the many offshore wind farms that will be required by state laws and mandates already passed in several northeastern states.
“Most of my understanding is built around environmental permitting and stakeholder engagement so I was looking for more technical details,” said Ohleth.
She pointed to the opportunity to network with others in this emerging industry as a benefit of the academy and added that UD served as a great place to hold the academy.
“The University of Delaware has a powerful position in offshore wind. Between John and Willett, they have so much practical experience in the industry and have done a great job putting together a curriculum that has sufficient detail for professionals who have been working in the industry and are looking for a deeper dive,” said Ohleth. “I think it’s been in large part due to their expertise. They can curate this for us, and we have a lot to learn. We’re a whole generation behind Europe in this industry in developing and building projects so we have a lot to learn and this is a great opportunity.”