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Research

In Search of a Solid Footing for Offshore Wind Turbines



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The ocean is an attractive place to build wind turbines to generate electricity, because ocean winds are strong and relatively consistent in direction, and because a large coastal population is nearby to use the electricity. Of course, building offshore wind farms also brings special challenges: underwater construction is difficult, and the wind turbine towers must be built to withstand storm waves, hurricanes, ice floes, and salt corrosion. Before construction even begins, however, it is essential to identify areas of the sea floor that will provide a stable foundation for the towers over the long term. Knowledge of sea-floor geology plays an important role in making this determination.

At the USGS Woods Hole Data Library, librarian Linda McCarthy mends paper seismic records so that they can be safely digitized
Above: At the USGS Woods Hole Data Library, librarian Linda McCarthy mends paper seismic records so that they can be safely digitized. Photo credit: Alan Allwardt. [larger version]

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a sister agency of the USGS within the Department of the Interior, recently leased acreage along the New Jersey outer continental shelf (OCS) for potential wind-energy development. The leaseholder arranged for Fugro Marine GeoServices, Inc., to evaluate existing data about the underwater geology of the site in order to guide future wind-energy development.

On September 16, 2016, Fugro’s Sean Sullivan contacted Linda McCarthy, the data librarian at the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center. Sullivan wrote, “The seismic data collected during cruise 80-1 aboard the R/V Whitefoot in 1980 will assist Fugro in understanding the Tertiary–Quaternary shallow stratigraphic sequence and structural geology in order to help plan a future site investigation along the New Jersey OCS.” Sullivan was referring to seismic-reflection techniques used by the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center to reveal the layers of unconsolidated sediment and sedimentary rock underlying the sea floor in the lease area. He had previously consulted the online USGS Coastal and Marine Geoscience Data System (CMGDS) and discovered a USGS research cruise undertaken in 1980 for a different purpose, to look for geological hazards that might affect a proposed petroleum pipeline. McCarthy checked the data library holdings and sent Sullivan a list of large paper seismic profiles that could be scanned and made available. Sullivan compared the list to navigation data online at CMGDS and chose 22 track lines that would be useful to Fugro. By October 13, the scanning was completed, with the digital data and accompanying metadata totaling 24 GB, which was copied to an external hard drive supplied by Fugro.

At the USGS Woods Hole Data Library, librarian Linda McCarthy feeds paper seismic records through the scanner to digitize them
Above: At the USGS Woods Hole Data Library, librarian Linda McCarthy feeds paper seismic records through the scanner to digitize them. Photo credit: Alan Allwardt. [larger version]

In the future, when wind turbines offshore of New Jersey provide electricity for New York City, 36-year-old USGS data will have helped make that possible.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Re-Evaluating the Causes and Hazards of South Carolina Earthquakes
Aug. / Sept. 2016
New Quaternary Geology Map Reuses Decades-Old USGS Data
June / July 2016
USGS Data from 1981–1982 Still Serving the Nation
April / May 2016

Related Websites
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
USGS
WHSC Seismic Profiling systems
USGS
Coastal and Marine Geoscience Data System
USGS
Offshore Wind Energy site at BOEM
BOEM

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in this issue:

Cover Story
SE Beach Dunes Lost to Hurricane Matthew

News Briefs
News Briefs

Fieldwork
Indian Ocean Gas Hydrates Drilling

Recent Fieldwork

Research
Measuring Coastal Erosion in California

Solid Footing for Offshore Wind Turbines

Outreach
Woods Hole Science Stroll

Awards
James Hein Wins Moore Medal Award

International Recognition for Historic Elwha River Restoration

Meetings
AGU Fall Meeting

International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals

SACNAS National Conference

Staff
Visiting Scholar Studying Arctic Ocean Ferromanganese Crusts and Nodules

Publications
Structured Decision Making in Barrier Island Restoration

Oct. - Dec. Publications

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