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Offshore Wind – The New Frontier

Posted on November 11, 2012

Offshore Wind – The New Frontier. I am always excited to see our science and entrepreneurs getting together to bring new energy sources to us. According to reports much of the rest of the world is already generating electricity using off-shore wind. The United States is lagging behind, as of 2011 the USA had no off shore wind farms.

Here’s the good news, Google has announced that it is teaming with a New York financial firm to fund construction of a huge underwater transmission line. This grid would connect future wind farms off the mid-Atlantic coast.

“Offshore winds tend to blow harder and more uniformly than on land, providing the potential for increased electricity generation and smoother, steadier operation than land-based wind power systems. The availability of these high offshore winds close to major U.S. coastal cities significantly reduces power transmission issues.”

These are some of the findings according to a government report, “Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power in the United States”.

We can achieve 20% of our electricity from wind by 2030. This could bring increased energy security, reduced air and water pollution and stimulate domestic economy.

Revitalize the manufacturing sector; by 2030, bringing 43,000 permanent well-paid technical jobs in manufacturing, construction, engineering, operations and maintenance.

Provide clean, marketable, sustainable, power to large urban areas close to the coast of 26 states.

According to the report “Although the United States has built no offshore wind projects so far, about 20 projects representing more than 2,000 MW of capacity are in the planning and permitting process. Most of these activities are in the Northeast and MidAtlantic regions, although projects are being considered along the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Coast. The deep waters off the West Coast, however, pose a technology challenge for the near term.”

Here are some of the concerns regarding offshore wind power facilities cited in the report.

Marine animals, although European studies suggest minimal impact, us studies will be required to understand risks and reduce harmful effects.

Visual effects on coastal residents will be researched to better understand coastal communities and their ability to accept changes to the seascape.

Property values, studies need to be conducted on coastal communities to find estimated impact on real estate values.

Noise, based on European studies and experience the greatest environmental impact is from the noise created during the pile driving activity. Studies are being done to find ways to avoid some of this with alternative technology.

Tourism, the evidence suggests that the impact is minimal.

Marine safety, there is a possibility of a ship colliding with a turbine or a turbine collapsing. No reported incidents have occurred to date.

Yes, there is lots of excitement around this and lots of nay saying about it as well, but like everything else, the future is coming and progress won’t wait. Read the entire report http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy10osti/49229.pdf

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