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Let The Wind Power Us From Deep Water

These examples show that offshore wind technology is advancing so rapidly that sacrificing Nantucket Sound for a project like the one currently being proposed is shortsighted. In the near future, the public could get the same benefits from building an offshore wind plant farther out to sea with far fewer negative impacts, and at the same time avoid being saddled with what may well become an obsolete technology.

Deep-water wind energy may be farther from shore, but it is now closer to reality than many realize. And far-offshore wind generation promises the benefits of wind without many of the negative impacts of near-shore sites. This promising technology offers a better solution to our energy needs without sacrificing our near-shore coastline and without destroying rich ecological areas like Nantucket Sound.

In Europe, the acknowledged leader in offshore wind energy, deep-water projects are already in the works. The Beatrice wind plant in Scotland is the flagship project for offshore wind energy development in Europe. Two 5-megawatt demonstrator wind turbines will be installed more than 12 miles off the coast and in water depths of more than 150 feet. This compares with the proposed Cape Wind project, which would be only five miles offshore and in depths of less than 40 feet.

Expected to begin producing power next year, the Beatrice project is being closely watched for its potential to generate power without the tradeoff of destroying the landscape or endangering vessel traffic. If this demonstration project proves successful, the developers are planning a commercial wind plant of 200 units.

Floating offshore wind turbines are being explored for even further distances from shore. The Energy Research Center of the Netherlands is undertaking a cost and feasibility study of wind... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Deep-water wind energy may be farther from shore, but it is now closer to reality than many realize. And far-offshore wind generation promises the benefits of wind without many of the negative impacts of near-shore sites. This promising technology offers a better solution to our energy needs without sacrificing our near-shore coastline and without destroying rich ecological areas like Nantucket Sound.

In Europe, the acknowledged leader in offshore wind energy, deep-water projects are already in the works. The Beatrice wind plant in Scotland is the flagship project for offshore wind energy development in Europe. Two 5-megawatt demonstrator wind turbines will be installed more than 12 miles off the coast and in water depths of more than 150 feet. This compares with the proposed Cape Wind project, which would be only five miles offshore and in depths of less than 40 feet.

Expected to begin producing power next year, the Beatrice project is being closely watched for its potential to generate power without the tradeoff of destroying the landscape or endangering vessel traffic. If this demonstration project proves successful, the developers are planning a commercial wind plant of 200 units.

Floating offshore wind turbines are being explored for even further distances from shore. The Energy Research Center of the Netherlands is undertaking a cost and feasibility study of wind plants that could be located from 30 to 120 miles from shore.

While the Beatrice project in Scotland is to be anchored to the seabed, in Norway an energy group is planning to deploy a deep-water floating turbine in 2007. The floating windmills, tethered at three points to the seabed to keep them stable, employ anchoring technology widely used to build oil platforms. And this newest of wind technologies is projected to be economical within a decade by the Unites States' own National Renewable Energy Lab.

Other efforts here in the U.S. show the focus is shifting to offshore sites in deeper water and farther from shore. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, General Electric and the U.S. Department of Energy have united to create the Offshore Wind Collaborative. Their goal is to further the development of offshore wind, especially remote offshore sites in deep water off the Northeast coast. This group recognizes that the potential for offshore wind in deep water is vast. In fact, a Department of Energy report estimated the energy-producing potential of offshore winds in the U.S. at 907 gigawatts - an amount greater than the total current installed U.S. electrical capacity - 75 percent of which lies in deep waters that are more than 20 miles offshore.

These examples show that offshore wind technology is advancing so rapidly that sacrificing Nantucket Sound for a project like the one currently being proposed is shortsighted. In the near future, the public could get the same benefits from building an offshore wind plant farther out to sea with far fewer negative impacts, and at the same time avoid being saddled with what may well become an obsolete technology.

The reality that deep-water technology is quickly becoming more feasible, and the negative impacts of near-shore sites have led to new siting standards in Europe. Several European countries are requiring offshore wind plants to be at least 12 miles from shore. Sites under consideration for development in the United Kingdom for commercial operation after 2010 will be more than 12 miles offshore. Other countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, have opted to develop future utility-scale wind plants at such a distance that they are not visible from shore. The Netherlands and Germany will allow major wind plants only outside the 12-nautical-mile zone.

Ironically, developments in oil and gas have helped make far-offshore wind energy possible. The oil and gas industry in the U.S. has decades of experience in building and operating large structures at sea and has deployed thousands of offshore oil platforms. And the existing activity in Europe with shallow offshore wind offers essential experience that can be directly applied to deep-water operations. Rather than using Nantucket Sound as a proving ground, we should leverage this existing experience. We should invest in initiatives such as the one started by the Offshore Wind Collaborative and utilize technologies that will put us at the forefront of the offshore wind industry.

There is no reason to needlessly sacrifice a national treasure in pursuit of environmentally acceptable technology. With deep-water development becoming more than just a possibility, we won't have to.




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DEC 9 2005
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1146-let-the-wind-power-us-from-deep-water
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