Where Offshore Wind Power Remains Far from Reach
To date not a single offshore wind turbine been built in the United States. Meanwhile Europe, China and Japan are far along in developing a water-based wind power industry. All one needs is a strong and steady wind as well as a relatively easy way to connect o the power grid so as to transmit the power gained from the wind. Most people think of wind power from various land based operations. However, it can be done by basing the wind turbine in the sea.
A wind farm is a group of wind turbines in the same location used for production of electric power. Individual turbines are interconnected with a medium voltage power collection system and communications network. At a substation, this medium voltage electrical current is increased in voltage with a transformer for connection to the high voltage transmission system.
Near shore turbine installations are on land within 5 miles of a shoreline or on water within ten miles. These areas are good sites for turbine installation, because of wind produced by convection due to differential heating of land and sea each day. Wind speeds in these zones share the characteristics of both onshore and offshore wind, depending on the prevailing wind direction.
Offshore wind turbines are less obtrusive than turbines on land, as their apparent size and noise is mitigated by distance. Because water has less surface roughness than land (especially deeper water), the average wind speed is usually considerably higher over open water.
Spain, Denmark, and Germany are Europe’s main wind energy producers. A large wind farm may consist of a few dozen to several hundred individual wind turbines, and cover an extended area of hundreds of square miles, but the land between the turbines may be used for agricultural or other purposes. A wind farm may be located off-shore to take advantage of strong winds blowing over the surface of an ocean or lake.
The United States is behind in developing sea based wind farms for many reasons: economic and regulatory uncertainties, local opposition (not in my backyard), and even the relative bounty of cheaper land based wind power resources have all conspired to slow any drive to develop wind power resources on the sea.
One of the proposed projects is the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project. The proposed project would be located in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 13 nautical miles off the Rockaway Peninsula. It would likely be designed for 350 megawatts of generation, with the ability to expand it to 700 megawatts, giving it the potential to be the largest offshore wind project in the country.
The Cape Wind project would lie in the Nantucket Sound off New England. It has been debated for nine years. Some believed the proposed wind farm would cause visual harm to historic sites.
The beleaguered Cape Wind project, which has been struggling to overcome these obstacles for the better part of a decade and now awaits a decision from the Interior Department, is seen as a bellwether for the industry.
Canada may end up with the first North American sea based wind farm.
“Canada is actually in a pretty good place right now,” said Matthew Kaplan, a senior analyst with Emerging Energy Research, a market research firm based in Cambridge, Mass. Mr. Kaplan pointed to the generous incentives for renewable energy development that provincial leaders in Ontario put in place last fall.
This month the Ontario Power Authority announced that it had, in just a few months after introducing the increased incentives, awarded contracts worth $8 billion for development of some 2,500 megawatts of new renewable energy projects — or roughly the capacity of two midsized nuclear power plants. Among the beneficiaries is Windstream Energy, which plans to build a 300-megawatt wind facility on about 48,000 acres of shallow water near Wolfe Island (Great Lakes region).
The Wall Street Journal noted last week that both sides of the Great Lakes are ripe for wind power development — but whether Windstream, Cape Wind or some other developer will prove to be the first to get an offshore project up and running on this continent remains anybody’s guess.
None of these projects are going to be running soon.
Article by Andy Soos appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.
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