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Cleaner energy, still an eyesore?

Florida critics of offshore oil drilling say rigs would blight Gulf of Mexico vistas. So imagine a different kind of energy-harnessing rig looming over offshore waters: windmills hundreds of feet tall, with three-prong blades slicing through the sky to generate relatively pollution-free electricity.

For now, environmental activists and federal regulators can't say whether such an offshore wind farm would be a welcome picture or yet another attack on Florida's signature attraction.

"This is emerging for all of us," said Maureen Bornholdt, a Minerals Management Service director for renewable energy in offshore waters.

Her federal agency is having public meetings across the nation to develop guidelines and rules for offshore energy projects expected in the next several years. The only gathering in Florida is today in Orlando.

Florida has been adept at opposing ever-mounting pressure for offshore drilling because of potential harm from spills and other disruptions to the marine environment.

Yet residents might soon be pressed about offshore rigs that capture energy from wind, waves, currents or sun rays -- in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

What makes the choice so difficult for Floridians is that wind power is cleaner -- and may one day be cheaper -- than conventional plants fueled by oil, coal or uranium.

The price of wind-generated power, currently used in nearly 30 states, already is competitive with power... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
For now, environmental activists and federal regulators can't say whether such an offshore wind farm would be a welcome picture or yet another attack on Florida's signature attraction.

"This is emerging for all of us," said Maureen Bornholdt, a Minerals Management Service director for renewable energy in offshore waters.

Her federal agency is having public meetings across the nation to develop guidelines and rules for offshore energy projects expected in the next several years. The only gathering in Florida is today in Orlando.

Florida has been adept at opposing ever-mounting pressure for offshore drilling because of potential harm from spills and other disruptions to the marine environment.

Yet residents might soon be pressed about offshore rigs that capture energy from wind, waves, currents or sun rays -- in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

What makes the choice so difficult for Floridians is that wind power is cleaner -- and may one day be cheaper -- than conventional plants fueled by oil, coal or uranium.

The price of wind-generated power, currently used in nearly 30 states, already is competitive with power from newly built power plants that use natural gas.

At the same time, wind turbines have drawn opposition as lethal to birds and as eyesores.

A proposal for more than 100 wind turbines offshore near Cape Cod, Mass., has created controversy.

Meanwhile, Texas recently approved construction of more than 100 wind turbines in a patch of Gulf of Mexico waters regulated by the state. Local environmentalists say the location jeopardizes an important bird migratory route.

"Wind energy isn't even a blip on the charts when you look at bird mortality," said Christine Real de Azua, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association.

The Minerals Management Service meeting -- at 5:30 p.m. today in the Embassy Suites Hotel at 8978 International Drive -- doesn't have a specific project to talk about. But the public can help shape the way proposed projects are considered.

Frank Gorke, energy advocate for the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, said his group decided to back the construction near Cape Cod. But it wasn't an automatic choice.

"We need wind power to improve energy independence and to reduce air pollution," Gorke said. "There are a lot of places where it makes sense to put a wind farm, but a handful of places where it doesn't."

Kevin Spear can be reached at 407-420-5062 or kspear@orlandosentinel.com.


Source: http://www.orlandosentinel....

JUN 8 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2960-cleaner-energy-still-an-eyesore
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