in Life, VolturnUS

I want to put a ding in the universe.

-Steve Jobs

Eight days ago the University of Maine, with the help of Cianbro, Maine Maritime Academy, and many other partners in the DeepCWind Consortium, deployed the first-ever floating wind turbine in the United States. It is also the first-ever concrete-composite floating structure of its kind in the world. “VolturnUS”, as the assembly is named, is a 1/8th-scale prototype created to gauge the viability of putting 6-MW wind turbines out to sea. If all goes as expected, these turbines will be floating in a matter of a few years.

As “the new intern kid” on the VolturnUS project, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this week. I did know that it was going to be exciting, however, and I wasn’t proven wrong. The first couple days were fairly slow, but that was to be expected. In order to go work out to sea, I had to be fully trained in various environment health and safety practices, as well as field safety practices. With full knowledge that I could go out to the field as soon as these training sessions were finished, I got down to business and completed them promptly. Curtis, my internship adviser/mentor, was in the field all week, so he also gave me special topics to become familiar with once the safety training was complete. Since all of these engineering topics were being utilized on VolturnUS, it was simple to see the relation to the project. Some topics included:

  • Sensors
    • Accelerometers
    • Gyroscopes
    • Inertial Measurement Units (IMU’s)
    • Strain Gauges
    • Load Washers
    • Proximity Sensors
    • Anemometers
    • Wave Staffs (capacitive water-level sensors by Ocean Sensor Systems)

A more thorough overview of these sensors can be found here.

  • Naval Architecture

    • Ships typed according to means of physical support (aerostatic, hydrodynamic, hydrostatic)

    • Ship measure (displacement, tonnage, deadweight tonnage)

    • Ship dimensions (drafts, freebord, sheer, camber, tumblehome, flare, deadrise)

A more thorough (yet still very brief) overview of naval architecture can be found here.

Thursday was the best day all week, for it was spent totally in the field. The team (Curtis, David, a mechanical engineering professor, and I) left Orono at 7 AM, were in a meeting at Maine Maritime by 8:30, and were out to the turbine a little after 9. In the morning meeting we covered what needed to be done, which included setting up Ghost Bridges for two-way communication between land to sea, fixing a wire that had been damaged in transit, waterproofing electrical connections on each end of the arm, connecting the wave staffs, and cleaning up the entire fixture. It was a long day when we got back to the mainland around 5:30, but it was an amazingly productive one! From this intern’s perspective, it was an incredibly exciting week.


The best part? It’s only the start.