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In 2005 Willett Kempton, a University of Delaware professor in the school’s College of Marine Studies, began teaching a course on offshore wind power. “In our department,” Kempton recalls, “most of my colleagues were working on some aspect of the global-warming problem.” Coal-fired power plants, a major contributor of carbon in the atmosphere, had recently been linked in Delaware to clusters of cancer outbreaks and to high levels of mercury in the state’s fishery. One of the first things Kempton and his class did was go down the list of clean-energy options for Delaware — “It was a pretty short list,” he said. Solar power was still far too expensive to be economically sustainable. And the state had no land-based wind resource to speak of. But a team of students, led by Amardeep Dhanju, became curious about measuring the winds off the coast to determine whether they might serve as a source of power. What he found was that Delaware’s coastal winds were capable of producing a year-round average output of over 5,200 megawatts, or four times the average electrical consumption of the entire state. “On the wholesale electricity markets,” Dhanju wrote, “this would produce just over $2 billion” in annual revenue.

Two doctoral students from the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) will spend the next year in the nation’s capital thanks to a prestigious award they’ve both earned. Marine policy student Amardeep Dhanjuis is among just 46 students from across the nation to receive 2010 Dean John A. Knauss Fellowships.

The National Sea Grant College Program in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sponsors the fellowships, which begin in February. The 31-year-old program matches qualified graduate students with host agencies in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government for paid assignments.


How will your work benefit the environment?

Dhanju will be working for the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that manages the nation’s natural gas, oil, wind, and other resources on the outer continental shelf. His assignment is to assist with marine spatial planning, a process that evaluates multiple ocean uses such as shipping, fishing, and various wildlife habitats in order to help decision makers when it comes to the use of marine areas. He will focus on mapping areas suited for offshore wind energy.

“There’s a concern that we need to look at how these different uses can conflict,” he said. “So we need to plan out where some of the uses should go.”

Dhanju will draw on his experiences researching wind energy at UD. Among the projects he’s completed here are ones that have quantified the wind resource in Delaware as well as the entire Mid-Atlantic Bight, from Massachusetts to North Carolina, and compared the resource to the region’s energy needs.

Under the guidance of adviser and Marine Policy Professor Willett Kempton, his findings — that the mid-Atlantic’s large resource could meet most of the energy needs in the region — have supplied critical information for energy policy and developing wind energy projects.

Dhanju, who is scheduled to graduate this spring, has also studied how states can regulate the wind resource. A current project is conceptualizing a way in which residents can store surplus energy from wind using home heating units.

What did you study?

After growing up in northern India and earning an undergraduate degree in economics at India’s Punjab University, Dhanju came to University of Delaware, where he received a master’s in political science and international relations. He also earned a PhD in Energy and Marine policy from University of Delaware