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Many Votes Generated for UMass IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program

On May 23, the last day to vote on the national IGERT Online Video and Poster Competition, Principal Investigator Erin Baker of the UMass IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program issued an urgent message for the entire College of Engineering Community: “We are in the top five vote-getters [out of over 200] in the NSF video poster contest. Please watch the video, hit the public choice button, and vote for us. If you have already voted, share this with other people to show the great work happening at UMass!” This year’s IGERT Online Video and Poster Competition allowed anyone to vote on over 200 presenters and co-presenters from 124 NSF funded IGERT projects as they demonstrated their innovative, interdisciplinary, graduate work. The URL for the competition is: http://posterhall.org/igert2013.

The UMass IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program, started with a $3.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation in August of 2011, is now spinning at full speed as it generates an interdisciplinary graduate program in offshore wind energy engineering, environmental science, and policy. The goal of the program is to create a community of researchers who understand the technological challenges, environmental implications, and socioeconomic and regulatory hurdles of offshore wind farms. The program will eventually train 24 doctoral students over the course of five years.

One key problem addressed by the UMass program is that proposed offshore wind farms have often met with stiff public opposition. Think Cape Wind!

As the program expresses its mission, "We believe that a better understanding of technological and environmental constraints as well as public concerns will enable wind farm designs that have a greater likelihood of successful approval and construction."

The big question is, “Will the public cooperate?”

Baker says that “In general, it has been surprisingly hard to site wind farms. Although they’re clean and the energy is free once you install the equipment, there has often been a public backlash against them. We’re trying to address that in a way that faces this public acceptance problem right from the beginning.” (May 2013)