UMass Program Creates Doctorate in “Offshore Wind Energy”

UMass Amherst is offering a new graduate program combining engineering, environmental science and policy, leading to a doctorate in “offshore wind energy.” 

Erin Baker is professor of industrial and mechanical engineering who has been helping to launch the program. She says wind power holds enormous potential to help New England meet its energy needs. But she says turbines on land generate far less energy than their larger offshore counterparts.

“What limits the size of land-based ones is freeway overpasses and that kind of thing. Whereas you don’t have that limitation on the ocean.”

Baker says one complexity in the siting of wind farms is community opposition. She says she thinks there’s opposition because developers approach siting projects without being sensitive to community concerns. So one major focus of the graduate program is to start conversations early in the development process.

“Some people feel like they’re not getting a say. And so I think it’s because they’re so frustrated by not being listened to from the beginning that they grasp on to these things like the health effects. So our idea is to try to really listen to what their concerns are and see if we can find communities that are actually excited about wind rather than fighting wind.”

The program is funded by a $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.