By Sandra Whitehouse, Chief Scientific Officer (Consultant), AltaSea
The Waterfront Alliance Conference: Cities on the Edge was held in New York City on May 8th and attended by over 600 people. The panel I spoke about AltaSea was titled: Ready for Liftoff: Ports Driving Innovation. The audience was keen to learn about how AltaSea is harnessing the Blue Economy through the development of the Blue Tech Cluster to create jobs, advance science and inspire the next generation. Like Los Angeles, New York City needs to balance and sustain a diverse and multi-functional waterfront. They also have buildings that are remnants from an earlier era of maritime transportation that can be re-purposed for new uses.
One of the potential uses of these facilities is to be a shore-side facility to service the offshore renewable energy sector. Offshore wind development is advancing in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions where there is high demand for energy and the water depths are suitable for existing turbine construction technologies. However, this is rapidly changing as more research is being done on floating wind turbines. One advantage of these technologies is that the turbines can be built on their platforms shore side and then towed out to sea, greatly reducing construction costs. For the west coast where the water depth increases rapidly from the shoreline, an even bigger advantage is that because these devices are tethered to the bottom rather than fixed, they can be deployed in much deeper water.
Many blue tech businesses are already linked to the offshore renewable energy sector. Underwater robots are being used for a myriad of purposes including to evaluate potential sites, monitor subsurface cables from a wind farm to land and inspect structures. AltaSea is well poised to expand into this sector. The collaborative model fostered at AltaSea is ideal to create new opportunities for blue tech companies to be an integral part of renewable energy sector as well as to develop new energy technologies.
The Waterfront Alliance’s interest in AltaSea affirms the value of the project not just in Los Angeles, but also as a model for other cites seeking to be a part of the growing blue economy.