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Catching the sea breeze

CRITICS OF PROPOSED US offshore wind farms have recently lauded efforts to develop deep-water offshore wind energy technologies that would allow wind farms to be built far from shore. They suggest that advances in research and development are proceeding at such a rapid pace that thousands of wind turbines could soon be operating off the northeast coast without encroaching on anyone's view or posing any threat to the environment. Clarification about the current state and potential of deep-water offshore wind energy appears timely.

CRITICS OF PROPOSED US offshore wind farms have recently lauded efforts to develop deep-water offshore wind energy technologies that would allow wind farms to be built far from shore. They suggest that advances in research and development are proceeding at such a rapid pace that thousands of wind turbines could soon be operating off the northeast coast without encroaching on anyone's view or posing any threat to the environment. Clarification about the current state and potential of deep-water offshore wind energy appears timely.

The US Department of Energy estimates the wind energy potential off the United States coast to be roughly equivalent to the nation's current total demand for electricity.

For the past year, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative has worked with the US Department of Energy and General Electric Co. to assess the feasibility of tapping a significant portion of this vast resource. Our partnership jointly funded a research project that brought together experts to assist with this task. A milestone was reached last year with the publication of ''A Framework for Offshore Wind Energy Development in the United States."

The framework... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
CRITICS OF PROPOSED US offshore wind farms have recently lauded efforts to develop deep-water offshore wind energy technologies that would allow wind farms to be built far from shore. They suggest that advances in research and development are proceeding at such a rapid pace that thousands of wind turbines could soon be operating off the northeast coast without encroaching on anyone's view or posing any threat to the environment. Clarification about the current state and potential of deep-water offshore wind energy appears timely.

The US Department of Energy estimates the wind energy potential off the United States coast to be roughly equivalent to the nation's current total demand for electricity.

For the past year, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative has worked with the US Department of Energy and General Electric Co. to assess the feasibility of tapping a significant portion of this vast resource. Our partnership jointly funded a research project that brought together experts to assist with this task. A milestone was reached last year with the publication of ''A Framework for Offshore Wind Energy Development in the United States."

The framework notes that the strongest and steadiest offshore winds prevail over waters that are deeper and farther from shore than any existing wind farms. But a number of issues need to be addressed before economically viable electricity-generating wind facilities can be erected in the deep waters off the US coast.

While the promise is great -- an indigenous source of virtually inexhaustible clean energy -- the challenges are formidable. Our experts are confident they can be addressed, but not overnight, and not without the benefit of experience gained from shallow water projects.

Deep-water offshore wind energy systems will not simply consist of modifying existing onshore wind technology. Instead, whole new systems will need to be developed, requiring considerable investments of time and money. Moreover, it would be a serious miscalculation to assume that being ''over the horizon" in and of itself will address all offshore wind environmental and siting concerns.

Today just under 700 megawatts of wind energy is installed offshore, all of it in Europe, which is clearly ahead of the United States in thinking about and developing offshore wind resources. Most of the existing projects are in relatively shallow water.

The unique solutions to the unique challenges facing deep-water wind development have yet to be conceived. Therein lies the opportunity for the United States to engage cooperatively and competitively with Europe to earn a share of what promises to be a significant new global market .

Here in the United States, individual projects have been proposed off the coasts of Massachusetts (Cape Wind), New York, and Texas. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes the Minerals Management Service of the US Department of Interior to serve as the lead agency for permitting offshore wind projects in federal waters. Minerals Management officials contributed to the development of the framework.

A series of events has converged to create the context for Massachusetts to play a prominent role in the US offshore wind effort.

They are: New England's need to enhance the diversity, security, and reliability of its electricity supply with indigenous energy resources; the identification and mapping of the abundant wind resources off the Massachusetts coast; the breadth and depth of the intellectual capital housed within our business community and institutions of higher education; and the lessons learned from the proposal to construct the nation's first offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

The framework outlines a strategy for developing one component of a sustainable energy future that seems tailor-made for the Northeast. It remains to be seen if and how resources will be marshaled. A business plan detailing exactly how this might be accomplished through the creation of an offshore wind collaborative is being developed. Funded by the same partnership that produced the framework , the plan will be completed in 2006.

Greg Watson is vice president for sustainable development and renewable energy at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative

Source: http://www.boston.com/news/...

JAN 11 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/942-catching-the-sea-breeze
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