From Tufts to Renewable Energy

Roan Gideon, MS student in Offshore Wind Energy Engineering, is studying how to increase the global clean energy supply.
Roan Gideon

In 2019, Tufts University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering welcomed the first students to its new MS program in Offshore Wind Energy Engineering — the first U.S. offshore wind energy graduate program dedicated to infrastructure systems and the policy/technology interface. Roan Gideon is among the inaugural class of students working at the intersection of research and development, energy independence, and sustainable development. Recently, he answered questions about his path to studying offshore wind and his plans for the future.

Tufts: What interests you about offshore wind energy engineering? How did you come to study it?

Roan Gideon: This is really an exciting time to be studying offshore wind energy at Tufts as the industry that has predominantly taken shape in northern Europe for the past 30 years is now taking root in the eastern United States. There are a lot of opportunities to significantly bolster U.S. clean energy supply with offshore wind projects that can be built at much larger scales where the winds blow faster and more consistently. I initially became interested in the field in a sort of round-about way after studying concepts for floating hydropower turbine foundations while interning for a low-head hydropower OEM in 2017. I happened to read an article about offshore wind while working on that project, and soon became really fascinated by the potential for floating offshore wind.

When I returned for my final undergraduate year I began work on a senior thesis project researching the potential benefits of collocating wave energy converters with offshore wind turbines and have been "hooked" on offshore wind ever since. Through this project I was able to collaborate with Equinor (Statoil at the time) and conduct a site visit to the Hywind Scotland wind farm, the world's first utility-scale (30 MW) floating offshore wind farm. Witnessing these floating turbines in person was really an eye-opening experience, especially seeing how little even floating structures move in the ocean, and I have wanted to continue to research and ultimately develop floating (and fixed-bottom) offshore wind farms since.

What are your career goals? How does getting your MS fit in?

I worked for an engineering consulting firm on climate resilience projects in New York for a year prior to joining Tufts and am keen on practicing as a civil engineer in the offshore wind industry after completing this program. I'm really interested in the details involved in developing and constructing renewable energy projects, and the Offshore Wind Energy Engineering program here will enable me to gain more specialized skills and a deeper understanding of the intricacies involved in developing offshore wind projects in the United States and internationally. My experiences working on NYC resilience to more intense storms and rising sea level have made me especially interested in extreme event analysis with climate change projections, and I am interested in working on offshore wind durability in hurricane-prone regions as storms are likely to become more intense and migrate further northward over the coming decades.

What drew you to Tufts School of Engineering? Why Tufts?

The faculty here at Tufts really drew me to the program, particularly with the development of this new Offshore Wind Energy Engineering program by Professor of the Practice Eric Hines. The curriculum especially emphasizes interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration alongside technical proficiency which will be particularly important as the U.S. offshore wind industry continues to develop. There are opportunities to take really fascinating technical courses that discuss some of the offshore wind related projects the Tufts faculty has previously worked on in the U.S., as well as policy courses in The Fletcher School. Our entire cohort for the offshore wind program comes from very different engineering backgrounds and interests, and it is exciting to learn from and work with Kelly, Rebekah, Mike, and John in the program and the rest of the department. 

Tell us about your scholarship.

I am incredibly grateful and honored to be selected for the Avangrid Scholarship and to have the opportunity to pursue this degree with their support. Avangrid Renewables is a U.S. renewable energy company that develops and operates onshore wind, solar, and now offshore wind projects. It is part of the global Spanish energy company Iberdrola. Avangrid is working on some very interesting offshore wind projects including their joint venture Vineyard Wind project, which won the nation's first large-scale offshore wind solicitation of 800 MW here in Massachusetts, and the Kitty Hawk project in North Carolina. It is amazing the company partners with universities like Tufts to offer this scholarship program to pursue master's studies in renewable energy related fields and I'm thrilled to be here with their support. 

What advice would you give to prospective students or fellow new students?

There is a lot of very interesting interdisciplinary work and research needed in the offshore wind industry as it is established in the U.S. If the field sounds interesting to you I would definitely recommend speaking to Professor Hines and learning more about the program here at Tufts, which is very much at the forefront of offshore wind education in the United States as the country’s first offshore wind-dedicated civil engineering degree.