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Harnessing wind way of future on East Coast?

The shallow water just miles from the Rehoboth Beach shoreline could be the site of the country's first offshore wind farm -- but it will not be the only one, as similar projects are racing forward in Massachusetts and New York, experts say.

The shallow water just miles from the Rehoboth Beach shoreline could be the site of the country's first offshore wind farm -- but it will not be the only one, as similar projects are racing forward in Massachusetts and New York, experts say.

With more Americans focused on green energy and concerned about dependence on foreign oil, it's just a matter of time before hundreds of turbines harnessing the wind could line the shore from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

The energy bill the U.S. Senate approved last week authorized $5 million to study where offshore wind farms would be best located on the East Coast. Such an assessment could spur further interest from wind-energy businesses. The House still must approve the measure.

East Coast wind energy got another boost this week when the U.S. Department of Energy selected Massachusetts as the home for one of two new wind turbine blade-testing facilities. Massachusetts and Texas each will receive $2 million grants to build research centers.

The funding comes while the wind-energy industry is booming, booking record growth of on-land turbines from New York to California with enough energy capacity to power 3... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The shallow water just miles from the Rehoboth Beach shoreline could be the site of the country's first offshore wind farm -- but it will not be the only one, as similar projects are racing forward in Massachusetts and New York, experts say.

With more Americans focused on green energy and concerned about dependence on foreign oil, it's just a matter of time before hundreds of turbines harnessing the wind could line the shore from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

The energy bill the U.S. Senate approved last week authorized $5 million to study where offshore wind farms would be best located on the East Coast. Such an assessment could spur further interest from wind-energy businesses. The House still must approve the measure.

East Coast wind energy got another boost this week when the U.S. Department of Energy selected Massachusetts as the home for one of two new wind turbine blade-testing facilities. Massachusetts and Texas each will receive $2 million grants to build research centers.

The funding comes while the wind-energy industry is booming, booking record growth of on-land turbines from New York to California with enough energy capacity to power 3 million homes this year, according to the American Wind Energy Association trade group.

Still, wind represents less than 1 percent of energy consumption in the U.S., lagging far behind the rest of the world. The Energy Department wants to up that amount to 20 percent by 2030.

Now that the technology exists to convert wind to electricity, it makes sense to know the size and location of the best offshore wind resources, said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., during a news conference earlier this week.

"We want to make sure we know where to put the wind farms," said Carper, who pushed for the study. "We need to get started. ... The wind power is here."

Twenty-eight coastal states use about 78 percent of electricity nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

More than 900,000 megawatts of wind generation capacity exists within 50 miles off U.S. coasts, according to the Energy Department. That's an amount roughly equal to current installed U.S. electrical capacity.

Off the coast of central to southern Delaware, wind conditions -- upwards of 15.7 mph -- are good for generating electricity, said George Douglas, spokesman for the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

"You can definitely make electricity at a reasonable cost," he said.

Bluewater Wind LLC proposed a 600-megawatt facility with 200 wind turbines that would rise about 40 stories above the ocean, 7.2 miles off Bethany Beach or 12.5 miles off Rehoboth Beach. The wind farm could power as many as 130,000 homes throughout the state. The state has since directed the company to cut the size of the farm in half.

Because of the shallow depth of the Atlantic, strong offshore winds, high costs of electricity, and incentives to use renewable energy, the East Coast is the ideal spot for wind farms, said Willett Kempton, University of Delaware associate professor of marine policy and senior policy scientist in the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy.

"The amount of electricity that could be produced is huge," Kempton said.

Kempton and others at the University of Delaware conducted a study showing that winds from the mid-Atlantic region could produce more power than the current demand, and reduce the region's carbon dioxide emissions by 68 percent.

Richard Garvine, UD professor of physical ocean science and engineering who also worked on the study, said an assessment of potential locations could help inspire companies and manufacturers to build more wind farms.

"Ten years from now, the whole coast will have them," he said.

Despite their popularity, especially among conservationists, wind farms are a costly proposition. Delmarva Power has argued that Bluewater's original proposal for 200 turbines would cost customers an extra $22 a month.

Merrie Street, Delmarva Power spokeswoman, said the utility would embrace a study looking at the best and most equitable use of offshore wind power. But the concern is the expense to customers.

"The costs should be spread out across all those who will benefit, and that's not just Delaware," she said. "It would be a regional benefit, and we believe the region should help pay for it."

If there were a regional approach to providing wind energy, perhaps it wouldn't be as expensive, Street said.

For example, Bluewater Wind's original proposal was for 600 megawatts -- more than what Delmarva Power needs, Street said. Perhaps economy of scale could be maintained, she said, if the costs were borne by several utility companies.

While a poll conducted by UD researchers found that 91 percent of Delawareans surveyed supported the idea of a wind farm, even if it cost them more each month, a similar proposal off the Massachusetts coast has generated hostility and even outright opposition.

Cape Wind has been going through the permitting process since 2001 to build 130 turbines in the Nantucket Sound. The wind farm would generate enough power for about three-fourths of the needs of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Sound, or about 200,000 homes. A draft environmental impact statement is to be released in August.

Many of the complaints against the wind farm have to do with aesthetics.

"If you have a large, oceanfront home, the distant view of wind turbines in clear conditions is not something everyone can accept," said Mark Rodgers, Cape Wind spokesman. Still, he said, there are plenty of people who think the churning blades are beautiful.

Besides the high winds and the shallowness of the water, the sound also is the ideal location for a wind farm because of the area's long tradition of wind power, Rodgers said.

"In the early 1800s, there were 1,000 working windmills on Cape Cod powering the energy needs of the day, pumping water, grinding grain, making salt," he said.

Contact Summer Harlow at 324-2794 or sharlow@delawaronline.com.



Source: http://www.delawareonline.c...

JUN 28 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/9724-harnessing-wind-way-of-future-on-east-coast
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