LOCE Wind and Wave Energy Weblog

The web's first ocean and offshore wind energy weblog. Continuously renewed, like the ocean itself.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Offshore Wind Development May Come to Texas

This article, The winds of Texas,
Doreen Leggett, Townonline.com/bourne, (June 25, 2003) reports on a recent study suggesting that the offshore wind resource in the Gulf of Mexico may be more promising than originally believed. As a result of this finding, offshore developers have been contacting state regulators regarding the possibility of developing offshore wind projects. The article reports that an RFP for an offshore project may be issued as early as the end of the summer.

But given all of the problems with the Cape Wind problem (see, for example, this prior post), why would a developer want to involve itself in an offshore undertaking in Texas? Well, for one, according to the article, by a statutory quirk, Texas, unlike Massachusetts controls offshore lands up to eleve miles out. Thus, Texas would lease land for project development and developers would pay the state a fee. State control of project lands eliminates one problem experienced by Cape Wind, namely the issue of how to acquire requisite property rights on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)where a permit from the Corps of Engineers does not confer these rights and the Mineral Management Service, which leases lands on the OCS has no authority to issue a lease for renewable development. Second, aesthetics are likely to present less of a problem in Texas, where residents have long been accustomed to sharing their shoreline views and use with oil rigs.

Wind to Become A Leading Energy Source

Wind's power to meet energy needs both in the United States and Great Britain is growing as reported in these two articles. The first piece entitled
Wind Power Set to Become World's Leading Energy Source

Lester Brown, Common Dreams News Center (6/26/03) delivers an opimistic report on wind power's ability to meet all U.S. energy needs:

Advances in wind turbine design since 1991 allow turbines to operate at lower wind speeds, to harness more of the wind's energy, and to harvest it at greater heights -- dramatically expanding the harnessable wind resource. Add to this the recent bullish assessments of offshore wind potential, and the enormity of the wind resource becomes apparent. Wind power can meet not only all U.S. electricity needs, but all U.S. energy needs.

The second article,
Gutsy Britain is Boosting Wind Power to Fight Global Warming
, Beth Gardiner,
ENN 6/26/03 describes how Britain is pursuing wind development to combat global warming and other adverse environmental impacts of fossil fuel.

Another Tidal Project

Tidal research continues, as evidenced by this tidal project with windmill-like turbines launched off Devon reported in this post and now, the "sea snail" described in
Tidal Turbine Innovation makes waves for renewable energy hopes
Frank Urguhart, Scotsman (6/27/03). The proposed "sea snail," which will be deployed off Okrney is described as follows:

Standing 15 metres high, the half-size turbine support frame employs an ingenious system of giant hydrofoils which use the down-thrust from tidal currents to hold the structure firmly on the seabed.

The concept avoids the need for expensive gravity or anchoring systems on the ocean floor, which has been one of the main obstacles in the development of tidal generators.

Not only is the project expected to cost less than other technologies which require attachment to the seadbed but its free floating nature allows for more flexibility in where it can be sited. In addition, the sea snail is a prefabricated device which should reduce production costs as well.

The United States and Offshore Wind

This longer article entitled
The US Offshore Wind Market - Can It Stay on Course?
by Elisa Wood,
Renewable Energy World (May -June 2003) which focusses primarily on the progress with the Cape Wind project, gives a good overview of some of the problems facing offshore wind development in the United States. Obstacles discussed include the lack of a clear permitting process (well, actually, a disagreement as to whether existing permitting processes are sufficient), opposition from some environmental group and competing offshore users. On the positive side, the article notes that "consumers are hungry" for green power and many states have implemented a renewable portfolios standards which mandates that a certain percentage of a utility's power come from renewable sources. Ultimately, the article concludes that the future of offshore wave in the United States may hinge in part on the outcome of the Cape Wind proceeding. (as if developing a project weren't pressure enough without having to worry about the precedent it may set)

Renewable More Competitive

Here's a clip from
Solar Access
(June 25, 2003) reporting on a recent study by Navigant Consulting showing that renewables, particularly wind and solar have become increasingly cost competitive. This finding should help make renewables portfolio initiatives more popular by removing at least one arrow - higher costs - from renewable opponents' quivers.

First Tidal Energy Turbine Launches off Devon

From Edie.Net comes this article,
World's First Offshore Tidal Energy Turbine
(6/20/03). The article, which contains a photo of the project turbine, describes it as follows:
The turbine looks like a standard windmill, and the principle is exactly the same, albeit underwater. The structure is fixed into the seabed on a monopile and projects a few metres above the surface.

The article reports that project backers believe this concept could rival wind power because ocean currents are more reliable than wind and also because the turbines are less obtrusive. It will be interesting to follow the results of this new development and see if the developers' hopes for it hold true.

GE Goes Offshore for Offshore

This clip entitled
GE and Airtricity to Build Wind Farm in Irish Sea
(June 17, 2003) reports on General Electric's involvement with a proposed offshore windfarm in Ireland.

Cape Wind Projects Costs Plenty in PR Dollars

This piece from the Boston Globe entitled
On Wind, Some Blow Hot and Cold

Stephanie Ebbert, (6/17/2003) reports on the continuing controversy over the Cape Wind project, with many groups which ordinarily support development of "clean energy" opposing the project as inappropriate for the Cape. Because project developers and their well organized opponents are well funded, plenty of dollars have gone to PR agencies to advocate their respective positions:

As a belated summer season gets underway, both the opponents and proponents are trying to capture public opinion by flooding TV and radio airwaves. Cape Wind is running up to $90,000 worth of 60-second radio ads in which ''Bob'' and ''Honey'' deride fossil fuels as the real threat to the Cape's beaches. Those fictitious characters have to compete with Cronkite, who lends his considerable credibility to the Alliance's TV and radio ads.

The Alliance estimates it has already spent $100,000 on ads. Cape Wind places its media buys at about $200,000, out of the $10 million it has already spent on the project's engineering, planning, and data tower construction. Both sides have paid more money to hard-driving public relations firms and lobbyists.

It is unfortunate that the $300,000 spent on publicity could not have been channelled to other purposes, such as studies of project impacts or potential mitigation for the alleged adverse impacts.

Ocean Project Receives Funds

This clip from Solar Access (June 16, 2003) entitled
New Funds for ocean wave project
reports on the Danish government's recent $100,000 grant to the AquaEnergy Group to study its wave energy conversion system. Too bad similar funding is apparently not available domestically.

Wind Power for Hawaii

Just a brief clip here from Solar Access News reporting on a recent effort to map wind resources on Hawaii (June 16, 2003). The wind maps include wind resources over the ocean which would facilitate evaluation and implementation of offshore wind projects.

Wind In Hawaii

Just a brief http://www.solaraccess.com/news/story?storyid=4499
New Maps Reveal Hawaiin Wind Prospects
June 16, 2003

State Seeks to Zone the Ocean

Partly in response to the Cape Wind project and partly due to other proposed ocean developments (including a possible ocean energy project), the state of Massachusetts has established an offshore task force to consider ways of zoning state waters off the coast of Massachusetts as described in this piece,
All Not Calm Beneath Offshore Waves: State Eyes Zoning of Cluttered Sea Floors
Beth Daley, Boston Globe (6/15/2003).

So what are some of the activities crowding the sea floor? As the article describes

Dozens of pipes, phone lines, and electrical cables crisscross the coastal waters that stretch out 3 miles from shore. Shipwrecks and the occasional unexploded bomb litter its floor. On average, at least six new aquaculture businesses apply each year to open in state waters while one company has proposed constructing three windmill farms and another wants to generate electricity from wave power. Today, no single map can tell state officials where a century's worth of underwater hazards is located, and that sometimes leads to trouble. Three years ago, a Chelsea drawbridge was disabled for two days after workers accidentally yanked up its electrical cable, which wasn't marked correctly on their map of the sea floor.

The article also notes efforts by the Pew Commission and another federal commission arguing for a more organized national policy to manage federal waters which are located 3-200 miles out. But according to the article, given the strong history of state management of waters within the three mile offshore zone, complete nationalization of ocean policy seems unlikely.