While Cape Wind Awaits, South Carolina Advances Offshore Wind

For most of the past decade (8.5 years to be exact),  America has been talking about developing her first offshore wind farm. With all eyes turned towards New England, we have witnessed a high-profile, public, all out Not-In-My-Backyard brawl.

The brawl that spanned the entire Bush administration recently took another black eye on January 4, 2010 when the National Park Service (NPS) declared, in an unprecedented fashion, the Nantucket Sound eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Just as soon as the punch landed, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced that NPS and Cape Wind developers had until March 1st to work out a compromise, otherwise the federal government would step in and ensure that a “defensible” decision was made by the end of April.

Keep in mind, the Cape Wind debate spilled over into the entire U.S. offshore wind industry, requiring the development of a long rulemaking process for the Mineral Management Service which prevents the quick deployment of instrumentation to measure wind and wave temperatures for the study of other potential wind farms. It’s boiled down to a March 1, 2010 deadline where Secretary Salzaar is fully prepared to step in and issue a final verdict on the Cape Wind project, perhaps allowing for the project to finally move forward.

If there was a silver lining in this looming dark cloud, it is that other projects have been able to learn from Cape Wind and the European industry in the meantime. wind-farm-construction_2Regionally, the state of South Carolina has recently released a report on recommendations to the SC General Assembly to advance the deployment of offshore wind energy in South Carolina, citing job development, energy diversity, and domestic energy supply as advantages of offshore wind.

It may also help that Clemson University just landed a $98 million Department of Energy grant to construct a facility to test the very large drivetrain systems that may be used in future wind turbine design.  These large wind turbine drivetrain systems will likely be tailored towards the vast offshore wind market along the East Coast.

To manage and direct this project, Clemson University tapped long-time South Carolina wind energy expert and pioneer, Dr. Nicholas Rigas.  Dr. Rigas will not only oversee the construction and operation of the facility, but will also work to lure the attention of the wind industry to the South Carolina wind market, including supply chain opportunities associated with the drive train test facility.  This work is also expected to spur attention to the region, for example at the American Wind Energy Association’s Supply Chain Workshop on March 17th in Greensboro, NC.

For the Southeast, the offshore wind industry represents nothing short of an economic boom during these economic hard times. As the entire offshore industry watches New England for a signal on the future, leave no doubt that our region’s top leaders should be thinking dollars, jobs, and energy security and planning to take advantage of the lessons learned over the last decade from Cape Wind.

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The very small country of Denmark has had off shore wind for over ten years and at last report gets over 24% of its energy from that source. It is a national disgrace that the United States of America does not yet have even one off shore wind facility. I hope Georgia someday gets behind South Carolina and also looks towards the future. Both the University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology have already validated the value of off shore wind for Georgia.

Comment by Ed Griffith on January 26, 2010 1:50 pm

Speaking of Denmark and wind power…

As a result, wind turbines now dot Denmark, the country gets more than 19% of its electricity from the breeze (Spain and Portugal, the next highest countries, get about 10%) and Danish companies control a whopping one-third of the global wind market, earning billions in exports and creating a national champion from scratch. “They were out early in driving renewables, and that gave them the chance to be a technology leader and a job-creation leader,” says Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the New York City-based Natural Resources Defense Council. “They have always been one or two steps ahead of others

Source: “Denmark’s Wind of Change”, Time magazine, Feb 9, 2009


Comment by John Hartz on January 26, 2010 1:59 pm

NREL Study Shows 20 Percent Wind is Possible by 2024
Analysis Shows Transmission Upgrades, Offshore Wind, and Operational Changes Needed to Incorporate 20 to 30 Percent Wind
January 20, 2010
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS). This unprecedented two-and-a-half year technical study of future high-penetration wind scenarios was designed to analyze the economic, operational, and technical implications of shifting 20 percent or more of the Eastern Interconnection’s electrical load to wind energy by the year 2024.

“Twenty percent wind is an ambitious goal, but this study shows that there are multiple scenarios through which it can be achieved,” said David Corbus, NREL project manager for the study. “Whether we’re talking about using land-based wind in the Midwest, offshore wind in the East or any combination of wind power resources, any plausible scenario requires transmission infrastructure upgrades and we need to start planning for that immediately.”

The study identified operational best practices and analyzed wind resources, future wind deployment scenarios, and transmission options. Among its key findings are:

•The integration of 20 percent wind energy is technically feasible, but will require significant expansion of the transmission infrastructure and system operational changes in order for it to be realized;
•Without transmission enhancements, substantial curtailment of wind generation would be required for all 20 percent wind scenarios studied;
•The relative cost of aggressively expanding the existing transmission grid represents only a small portion of the total annualized costs in any of the scenarios studied;
•Drawing wind energy from a larger geographic area makes it both less expensive and a more reliable energy source – increasing the geographic diversity of wind power projects in a given operating pool makes the aggregated wind power output more predictable and less variable;
•Wind energy development is a highly cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions – as more wind energy comes online, less energy from fossil-fuel burning plants is required, reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
•Carbon emissions are reduced by similar amounts in all scenarios, indicating that transmission helps to optimize the electrical system and does not result in coal power being shipped from the Midwest to New England States;
•Reduced fossil fuel expenditures more than pay for the increased costs of additional transmission in all high wind scenarios.
“To put the scale of this study in perspective, consider that just over 70 percent of the U.S. population gets its power from the Eastern Interconnect. Incorporating high amounts of wind power in the Eastern grid goes a long way towards clean power for the whole country,” said Corbus. “We can bring more wind power online, but if we don’t have the proper infrastructure to move that power around, it’s like buying a hybrid car and leaving it in the garage.”

The EWITS Executive Summary and the full study can be downloaded for free at http://www.nrel.gov/ewits.

An EWITS media webinar will be held at 1 p.m. EST on January 20, 2010. For details, please contact Richard Sawyers at rsawyers@kearnswest.com.

NREL is DOE’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

Comment by John Hartz on January 26, 2010 2:47 pm

Being in first place isn’t always being in the best place.

OffshoreWindResources: 1/25/10 Expert Says Rhode Island Power Purchase Agreement Too Expensive
January 25, 2010

By Peter Brennan

A power pricing expert testified last week that a proposed offshore wind power purchase agreement between Deepwater Wind and National Grid is too expensive and should not be approved.

Deepwater Wind is planning an eight-turbine project in Rhode Island state waters, near Block Island. The company reached a power purchase agreement last month with National Grid — the utility agreed to pay 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity from the wind farm. That agreement must be approved by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission. [cut]

Cape Wind represents economic and environmental hardship, not unlike DeepWater Wind.

Cape Wind MMS (lead federal regulator) DEIS Appendix F:

“Given the estimated COST OF ENERGY IS $122/MWh, TWICE THAT OF THE CURRENT MARKET AND THIS IS AFTER THE FULL BENEFIT OF TAX AND RPS INCENTIVES, the prospects of entering a long-term purchase power contract would seem low.”

Source: http://www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/PDFs/FEIS/Appendix%20F%20-%20Economic_Model.pdf

U.S. EPA states in their Cape FEIS comments:

“We also noted that discussion about economic viability of the smaller scale project are complex given statements in the DEIS that the proposed project and other sites are not economically viable.”

“The discussion of economic viability provided in the FEIS in Section is the same as the DEIS, Section of the FEIS states that the site of the proposed action in Nantucket Sound “has the greatest potential”. In addition, the information contained in the Economic Model in Appendix F remains unchanged.”


Cape Wind subsidies would be equal to 77% of project construction cost estimated as $2 billion.

What benefit to the public is there in subsidizing a project that would produce twice the current price energy, net, net, net, on a perfectly windy day, only. If all goes well in the harsh marine environment.

When it sounds too good to be true, it’s the AWEA, wind companies and their friends talking.

Comment by Barbara Durkin on January 27, 2010 1:24 pm

her people. When a situation arises where people’s physical, cultural, or spiritual well being is threatened, this entire nation must collectively say NO.

Wind and sun are from our Creator, and they exist in such abundance that they can be harvested without harm. Any business claiming otherwise should be looked at askance because they have not done their homework, they are using outdated technology — or worse.

Should people suffer in the name of”clean energy,” it would be tragic on numerous levels. First, of course, is human. Next is by the indelible stain that sociopathic actions will place upon the clean energy movement. In the end, Mother Earth will suffer as her children turn their faces away from such immorality.

CLEAN ENERGY NOW is a choice we can make if we can just open our minds to the idea of having a choice. Right now, our generation has options available unlike ever before, as our government prepares to step away from fossil-fuel energy production. We have to take responsibility for doing this right, though.

Energy grids are huge and permanent, both as physical structures and as systems of power delivery. Also, they require Americans to be dependent on them; otherwise, no investors will commit the big $$$ it takes to build them. Unfortunately, energy grids also require tremendous time to plan, permit, and construct — time during which carbon emissions grow and damage.

CLEAN ENERGY NOW is available whenever customers are ready to step away from the grid. The IMMEDIATE PAYOFF is less carbon pollution. By reusing, refurbishing, and retrofitting our own homes, buildings, and businesses with wind & solar generators, we make a cleaner Earth now and for future generations. Each one is reduction!!!!

Long-term payoff is personal and community energy independence. Unfortunately, there are profiteers out there who will wrangle indefinitely to best ensure the size of their profits. They masquerade in “green” so that conscientious people will flock to them as potential customers. Marketing strategies, AKA Greenwashing will not satisfy our energy needs nor will it provide CLEAN ENERGY NOW.

We can do much better than that, America. We have choices. Immediately, we can eliminate our use of energy-producing businesses that prey upon our conscientiousness. Then we can demand that anyone taking control of America’s energy grid conduct business at the highest standards of human, social, and environmental integrity.

Comment by Robbyn Candelaria on February 14, 2010 6:30 pm

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