DoE plans meteo measurements off Virginia

Lighthouse to be converted into a met mast

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has taken stewardship of a Virginia lighthouse that it plans to use for meteorological measurements.

The department says it will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to measure wind speed, direction and turbulence at the Chesapeake Light Tower, a 36.6m (120’) offshore installation located about 21km (13 miles) east of Virginia Beach.

The DoE will take measurements at several heights up to 100m above the ocean surface, and says it will form data-sharing agreements with potential developers in the area. Eight companies have expressed an interest in developing offshore wind farms within Virginia’s designated wind energy area, which begins 43km off the coast.

The instruments deployed may also provide data for wave, current and tidal development, and the tower will continue to be used as a navigational aid for ships.

The DOE paid $90,000 to assume custody of the tower from the US Coast Guard, although the station remains owned by the US federal facilities agency, the General Services Administration (GSA).

The department said it is working with NREL and PNNL to determine installation costs. It expects the tower to be collecting a full range of data some time after 2013.

Built in 1965, the oil platform-like structure is supported by steel pilings driven into the ocean floor. It was scheduled for demolition in 2004, but was then appropriated for research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The GSA designated the tower as surplus to requirements in 2010.

Meanwhile, the state of Virginia plans to survey the ocean floor and conduct other research design to speed up commercial offshore wind development off its coast.