Southeast Mulls Offshore Wind Power

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To date, most offshore wind farms proposed in the United States have been in the Northeast

Cape Wind, a project off the shores of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, is awaiting a federal go-ahead, and similar ventures are in the offing near the coasts of Delaware, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

In the Southeast, too, “offshore wind really represents a huge opportunity,” said Brandon Blevins, the wind program coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, whose recent report on renewables in the South includes offshore wind. The Carolinas and northern Georgia have especially strong winds, he said.

Offshore wind power is expensive, and the projects have to date made more economic sense in places like the Northeast where power prices are already high. The Northeast coast also has higher population densities, so there are more customers for the power. And there is the small matter of hurricanes.

On the more positive side, said Mr. Blevins, the outer continental shelf extends at least 30 miles off the Southern coasts — and the relatively shallow water would make it easier to install turbines. Off the coast, the winds blow strongly in the afternoons — a convenient time, because that is when Southerners crank up their air-conditioning.

The Southern Company, a large utility that is heavily reliant on coal, is currently applying for leases from the Minerals Management Service, a federal agency that oversees offshore wind power, to put up three towers that will collect weather data in the waters off Savannah, Ga., according to Jason Cuevas, a company spokesman. The Southern Company is also applying for a lease that would allow it to collect data on the wind along Florida’s panhandle east of Penascola, Mr. Cuevas said.

South Carolina’s energy office, along with the state-owned utility Santee Cooper and a local university, plans to put buoys off the state’s coast to measure the weather. The installation has been held up by choppy waves, but hopefully will go into the water in the next few weeks, said Laura Varn, a Santee Cooper spokeswoman.

And North Carolina is considering offshore wind near its Outer Banks.

Mr. Blevins said that federal energy and climate regulations would help drive development — particularly a potential national carbon emissions cap and renewable energy requirements.

As for costs, offshore wind is “going to be cost-competitive with the new nuclear generation,” he predicted.

Source: New York Times

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