Atlantic Marine Energy Center, including ECU’s Coastal Studies Institute, receive federal award

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(Claire Molle, WNCT photo)

WANCHESE, N.C. — East Carolina University’s Coastal Studies Institute will be part of an effort by the new Atlantic Marine Energy Center (AMEC) to develop one of four National Marine Renewable Energy Centers in the country.

AMEC, led by the University of New Hampshire in partnership with several East Coast universities including the Coastal Studies Institute, has been awarded $9.7 million over four years from the U.S. Department of Energy. The center will focus on research and development to address ongoing needs for sustainable renewable ocean energy.

“The Atlantic Marine Energy Center consortium offers a tremendous opportunity for the Coastal Studies Institute and its North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program partner to continue leadership in advancing marine energy solutions for our blue economy,” said George Bonner, director of the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP). “We are excited about the new university partnerships, complementary research and testing infrastructure initiatives.”  

AMEC is a consortium of academic institutions including the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI), University of New Hampshire, Stony Brook University and Lehigh University. Partnering with each other, as well as with several other key energy collaborators, researchers and engineers will work to further ocean energy technology through research, education and outreach, complementing work being done at the energy department’s national labs. The applications developed by the partners will help power the “blue economy” — an emerging concept that encourages better use of the ocean as a resource while reducing environmental harm.

Scientists and engineers from each institution, including faculty members and students, will work in the field, the laboratory or computationally to study and implement ocean energy projects. The focus will be on the scientific understanding and overall effectiveness of wave energy and tidal energy conversion, including wave powered water pumps and tidal turbine farms. Crossover research will explore applications for ocean sensing, aquaculture, resilient coastal communities, supply chains, marine foundations and marine microgrids. Expansion of existing projects will include further development of CSI’s research partnerships.

“The North Carolina Aquariums has been a valued partner in developing CSI’s testing capabilities at Jennette’s Pier and we look forward to expanding our testing program, including pursuit of accreditation to international standards with the assistance of our partners from the European Marine Energy Centre,” Bonner said. “N.C. State University’s FREEDM Center also plays a critical role in the installation of a green energy micro-grid for testing at Jennette’s Pier. Our research will continue to prioritize holistic environmental assessments and stakeholder engagement in development of responsible solutions.

“As a National Marine Energy Center, we are also part of a broader network to support research collaboration and industry in marine commercialization. Marine energy offers unique resource potential in achieving North Carolina and U.S. clean energy goals as well as creating global marketplace opportunities.”

The formation of this National Marine Energy Center will provide new opportunities in renewable energy research and testing for NCROEP. Based at the Coastal Studies Institute on the ECU Outer Banks Campus, the NCROEP advances inter-disciplinary marine energy solutions across UNC System partner colleges of engineering at N.C. State University, UNC Charlotte and N.C. A&T University. It is the mission of the NCROEP to use renewable ocean energy wisely to effectively and economically power North Carolina’s blue economy and in the process create jobs and economic opportunities. 

Along with the partner universities, AMEC will collaborate with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, European Marine Energy Centre and Old Dominion University. ODU is a leader in the state of Virginia’s offshore wind research development, and CSI’s partnership with ODU provides an opportunity to co-develop marine hydrokinetic energy devices alongside offshore wind using existing Virginia offshore permits. 

The research will be funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the Water Power Technologies Office award no. DE-EE0009450.

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