ORONO — University of Maine graduate students will soon have new opportunities to study offshore wind energy at one of the largest universities in Norway. 

The Norwegian government awarded UMaine and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology about $292,000, or approximately 3 million Norwegian krone, to develop new, collaborative learning and research opportunities between both the institutions in the area of offshore wind. This 4-year grant was allocated through the UTFORSK program, which is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and administered by the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills. The project award will be shared equally among both the institutions.

Amrit Verma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is leading this project with a team of five other faculty members at UMaine. He will also work with a cohort of 8 faculty members from NTNU, where he earned his Ph.D. in marine technology. 

Among the offerings will be educational and research exchanges, through which UMaine master’s and Ph.D. students can take courses and conduct thesis research at NTNU, and vice versa. Funding from the Norwegian government will support the exchange activities of 19 students — seven from UMaine and 12 from NTNU. The project also supports research exchanges for 14 faculty members from both institutions. 

“I am thrilled by the new offshore wind power relationship with NTNU, as it provides me the opportunity to expand my graduate studies in innovative and exciting areas while also enhancing my Ph.D. research through travel, exchange, collaboration and publishing efforts with a broad range of Norwegian and other international experts,” says Patrick Moroney a graduate student studying wind turbine blades at UMaine’s Mechanical Engineering Department.

Through the collaborative project with NTNU scientists, UMaine researchers also plan to revamp five courses and create two new ones that includes a course on floating offshore wind turbines and one course on Marine Operations. Additionally, the multi-institutional team plans to establish four virtual summer intensive classes taught by faculty from both universities.

Researchers from both institutions also aim to prepare two externally funded project proposals and publish more than 10 international research articles together as part of this joint effort. They also plan to establish monthly virtual online seminars with guest lectures and panel discussions starting in January 2023, and two joint seminars held during conferences in 2024 and 2026. 

Verma says part of the rationale behind the collaborative project is that the offshore wind industry is rapidly growing worldwide and is recognized as one of the most important strategic areas by Norway and the U.S. Both NTNU and UMaine have a wide range of common research and educational activities in the area of offshore wind technology, thereby formulating a sound basis for a partnership that will advance the growth of next-generation offshore wind infrastructures.

“By receiving the award, we will be able to advance offshore wind education at UMaine further while gaining access to complementary expertise at NTNU,” Verma says. “The project will also enable visibility of both institutions nationally and internationally, will promote workforce development while providing an international perspective to UMaine students in the area of offshore wind.” 

For Verma, the joint effort between his current home institution and his alma mater will be crucial, as this will allow him to work with students and his previous colleagues at NTNU while advancing the research goals of his Wind Energy and Marine Operations (WEMO) Lab.

“I am eagerly looking forward to the collaboration with NTNU on offshore wind energy,” says Saravanan Bhaskaran, a graduate student who started studying recently at Verma’s WEMO Lab after completing his master thesis at NTNU.“I am sure that the new courses designed for this student exchange program will help me to broaden my knowledge on marine operations. My past affiliation with NTNU as a master student adds to the intrigue and attractiveness of this proposition.” 

Other UMaine faculty working on the project with Verma include Richard Kimball, Presidential Professor in Ocean Engineering and Energy; Andrew Goupee, Donald A. Grant, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Wilhelm Friess, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Keith Berube, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology; and Lauren Ross, assistant professor of hydraulics and water resources engineering.