LOCE Wind and Wave Energy Weblog

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

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Australia to Host A Commercial Wave Energy Project

This article, Wave Energy This Year: Construction of Port Kembla Plant Starts (1/6/04) reports on Energetech's 500kw plant which will supply power to approximately 500 homes. Energetech also reports that it's received funding for a potential project in Rhode Island, so maybe the US will be the site of a future ocean project soon.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Cape Wind to Enter Rhode Island?

Cape Wind may lease space in Rhode Island to build the gigantic windmill turbines for its proposed Cape Wind Project as reported in Cape Wind considering locating at Quonset park , Megan Matteucci, Providence Journal, 1/5/04 (free regis. req'd). According to the article, the proposal would likely involve leasing space at Pier 2 and another 30 acres for assembly and staging, starting in the summer of 2005. Cape Wind has also expressed interest in using Quonset's rail lines and airport, in addition to the port. Geoffrey Grout, economic manager for Quonset Park was quoted as saying "It's a sensible and profitable proposal," Grout said. "And it [would mean] a couple of million dollars in rental space and about 500 jobs."

More on the LIPA Offshore Project

This article,

Tilting at Windmills: One side touts them as clean power; detractors call them eyesores
, Tom McGinty, Newsday , (12/23/03) offers an interesting discussion of the proposed LIPA wind project which includes (among other things), a brief profile of Peter Mandelstam of Acadia Wind, one of the short-list competitors for LIPA's offshore wind project, a comparison of the LIPA proposal and Cape Wind project and (of course), comments by those who seem set to oppose the LIPA project (which in theory was to have been less controversial than Cape Wind). LIPA is due to announce the selected developer for its project any day and it should be interesting to see how the project progresses through the permitting once it begins.

Plans for More British Wind Energy Projects Announced

This link offers an update on the second round of offshore wind farm developments in the UK (1/5/04):

The Crown Estate has recently announced its licensed sites for the second round of offshore wind farm developments. These sites represent fifteen projects, representing between 5.4 and 7.2 GW of new wind power capacity. According to the British Wind Energy Associations website, the farms will generate enough power for 4 million homes, or one in six of UK households. In terms of interest to the recreational boater, this equates to 1800 - 2400 turbines based on a 3MW turbine currently being installed or assuming technology is able to increase turbine capacity to 5 MW turbines, this would mean 1080-1480 turbines being installed. The sites are limited to the three strategic areas around the UK - the Thames Estuary, the Greater Wash and Liverpool Bay.

More Wave Energy Innovation in the US

This article,
Innovator's Undersea Energy Source Attracts Navy, Others
(12/11/2003) reports on
Herb Williams, a Palatka, Fla., dock builder and former Alaskan crab boat skipper, whose small company wants to sink a network of innovative turbines he has designed - think of a giant fan with a hole in the center where the hub should be - deep into the Gulf Stream off the coast of South Florida. If it works - still a big question - the machines would convert the relentless flow of that undersea river into a more valuable kind of current. In July, a British company installed a turbine to tap current while other European and American companies are developing systems to tap tides, waves and currents.

But additional tests are needed. According to the article, Williams also drawn interest from the Navy and hopes to sign a contract with the Navy to help construct a full-scale prototype, with blades 106 feet in diameter, for testing off the coast. Williams has also applied for the first federal permit (editor's note - Williams apparently applied to the Corps of Engineers though FERC has asserted jurisdiction over ocean energy permitting) for what he envisions as seven "energy fields" stretching from Miami to Vero Beach, Fla., with an array of 500 generators. The review could take a year. And the cost of building a prototype could cost around $2 million which means that it may be awhile before the first wave or current energy project comes on line.
John Chorlog, an assistant director for Miami-Dade's Water and Sewer Department, said Williams would have to supply

Is the Oil Industry Ready for A Rigs-to-Wind Program?

There's already a Rigs-to-Reefs program where abandoned oil rigs remain and serve as underwater reefs for fish and marine life. How about rigs-to-wind where decommissioned oil platforms might house wind turbines? That's definitely a possibility on the horizon as discussed in Turbines may offer option for oil rigs, Richard Burgess, The Advertiser (12/29/03). As the article reports, engineer Herman Schellstede has a vision of wind turbines, 25 stories high dotting the Gulf of Mexico, providing pollution-free power to coastal Louisiana. The plan, he said, is to place the turbines on abandoned oil drilling platforms in the windy areas off the coast - a possible boon for the oil industry because regulations require that rigs in federal waters have to be torn down when not in use. And as noted in the previous post, the state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, announced this month that it plans to study the possibility of putting wind turbines on offshore platforms.

Still many are skeptical about the possibility, including high costs, how to transport power to shore and where to use it. But PSC Commissioner Foster Campbell isn' amongst the nay-sayers: "I’m not looking for a lot of pessimism saying it won’t work. I want to know how to make it work,” the article quotes Campbell as saying. “It’s worked in other parts of the country. Why not Louisiana?”

Louisiana Public Service Commission Interested in Offshore Wind

From News Briefs of Nola.com (12/21/03) comes this brief :
The Louisiana Public Service Commission will study the feasibility of generating electricity from wind turbines installed on dormant oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Commissioner Foster Campbell of Bossier City brought the idea to the PSC at its monthly meeting Wednesday in Baton Rouge. Lafayette conservationist and businessman Harold Schoeffler briefed the commission on the concept. He said wind energy is expanding in offshore locations in Europe and the United States and on land in Texas and California. Commissioners asked Schoeffler to educate the PSC and staff on the potential for offshore wind energy. Campbell said jobs in construction and other fields could be generated, and the power could be cheaper for ratepayers. PSC staff and Louisiana utility officials recently attended a conference organized by Schoeffler in Lafayette at which representatives of GE Wind Energy discussed using offshore oil platforms to erect wind turbines.

More Debate Over Wind Turbine Impacts on Birds

Wind energy may be clean but it's not completely benign, at least according to some of the information from this article Peril in the Wind Industry: Turbines That Produce Clean Energy Also Kill Migrating Birds , Kimberly Edds, Washington Post (12/24/03) . According to Edd's report, scientists estimate that as many as 44,000 birds have been killed over the past twenty years at the Altamont Pass wind farms. Apparently, the area is within the migration route of many predatory birds, whose focus on ground prey causes them to fly into the fast-spinning blades. As a result of the experience at Altamont, wind power has had problems with environmental groups who have claimed that the wind industry is not doing enough to stop avian mortality.

But is Altamont an accurate baseline for measuring bird deaths in the wind industry. As the article continues:

Altamont was constructed in the early 1980s when little was known about the migration patterns of birds in nearby areas. Mistakes made at Altamont have been used to make improvements in new wind farms. No other wind farm in the United States comes close to the bird mortality rates at Altamont because of improved windmill design for newer farms. The industry says similar updates for Altamont would be too costly.

There's also confusion about what to do to mitigate the problem. The article describes that:
past attempts to reduce bird kills have included painting the tips of turbine blades to try to make them more visible to birds, installing screens around generators and putting devices to discourage perching on the towers. But those measures have failed to substantially lower the number of bird deaths. Among the measures now being discussed is letting the grass beneath the turbines grow taller and removing nearby rock to provide more cover for prey and discourage birds from flying in the area. "There is no universal agreement what the exact right thing to do is," Stengel said, noting that a few years ago the recommendation was to build rock piles near the turbines. Now the recommendation is the opposite.
The number of birds killed at Altamont seem high - but they don't tell everything. I'd be interested in knowing, for example, how bird kills at Altamont compare to the number of birds killed at airports or by skyscrapers. I'd also be interested in seeing the rate at which the numbers have declined over the years. Finally, what would be the substitute for wind power - a natural gas plant? More fossil fuel generation? Surely these sources also have adverse impacts - and not just on birds but on humans also.

The Cape Wind Projects from A Danish Perspective

How's a wind farm opponent to respond when the developer brings a visitor from Denmark to expound on the benefits of offshore wind? By finding another Dane with a more critical view of offshore wind. As reported in Shift on the wind: Second Danish expert offers opposing views on Nantucket Sound project's feasibility , David Kibbe, Cape Cod Online.com (12/20/03), opponents of the Cape Wind Project brought Cresten Anderson, an outspoken critic of the projects in Denmark, to the Massachusetts Statehouse to offer his perspective on the projects. Here's what he said:
[First], the Horns Rev project [the largest offshore windfarm in the world] does not offer a fair comparison to what is being proposed by Cape Wind. "It's two completely different kinds of tourism that you have there," Anderson said yesterday. Among his criticisms, Anderson said it was misguided to compare the North Sea resort area to Cape Cod and the islands. "Cape Cod is a place where you go down, you have a lot of wind surfing and sailing," he said. "The North Sea, where Blavandshuk is located, you can go 20 feet out into the water, then you can't go any further, because of the undercurrents, and there are pitfalls in the water. You don't go swimming. You don't really go sailing, either. There's a lot of wind. It's really, really dangerous." Anderson also said the Danish wind farm was not economical, due to high government subsides and a low rate of return on energy. He said the money would be better spent cleaning up power plants in Eastern Europe.

Massachusetts Ocean Task Force Hears Mostly About Wind

The Massachusetts Ocean Management Task Force has been attempting to create a comprehensive plan for use of state waters - but its efforts at a broad plan have been complicated by the public's more narrow focus on one issue: the Cape Wind Farm. As reported in State ocean management group gets an earful , Evan J. Albright Barnstable Patriot, (12/19/03), the Task Force released a preliminary list of Draft Principles which would serve as the basis for future ocean management laws and policies. But at the first of five scheduled public hearings, the audience's comments primarily concerned the Cape Wind project, notwithstanding Task Co-Chair Jim Hunt's statements that the task force's goals were not to examine specific projects or to address matters involving federal waters (where the Cape Wind turbines will be located).

The audience was "equal opportunity" in ignoring Hunt's efforts to limit the scope of the meeting. Although backers of the wind farm project said the task force meeting was not the appropriate forum for discussing it, they also said that if the Task Force Report mentioned Cape Wind then it should include recommendations and principles promoting such projects. Those who opposed the wind farm believed that it was incumbent upon the task force to recommend "closing the doughnut" and thereby encourage the state to seek control over the project.

As for other criticism of the Task Force report, Steve Tucker, a coastal resources specialist quesitoned how the recommendations would be implemented while Patrick Paquette, president of the Massachusetts Striped Bass Coalition and a member of several other organizations devoted to recreational fishermen, criticized the report as being guided by insiders rather than the public. He also complained that the public comment period fell far short of the 90 days typically provided by state law for review of new rules and practices.

Will London Be Powered By Offshore Wind?

If Shell has its way, London may become a "wind powered" city, as reported in
Shell wants London to be windy city
, Terry Macalister, Guardian (12/19/2003).
Shell wants London to be windy city. According to the article, Shell has obtained the right to lease an offshore site which could site 300 turbines producing 1000 MW of power. Shell has already established a pilot wind farm off Northumberland and has five wind projects in the US and one in Spain.

New Zealand to Fund Wave Energy

This Press Release
Eco-Friendly Energy On Its Way
dated December 10, 2003 reports that four New Zealand research programs will receive funding, starting in July 2004, to study environmentally-friendly ways to supply energy to New Zealanders.
The research will include the development of cost-effective Wave Energy Converters (WEC) in New Zealand to generate electricity, a four year project to be lead by Industrial Research Limited. As the Press Release states:
Wave power is a potentially important renewable resource and the researchers estimate that New Zealand's near-shore wave energy exceeds the current electricity consumption by over 40 times. The WEC design will include novel gearless conversion and "smart technology" adaptive control. This technology has the potential to achieve a breakthrough in electricity generation from renewable resources and capture key intellectual property for New Zealand. The National Institute for Atmosphere and Water (NIWA) and Wellington-based company Power Projects Limited will play vital roles in the programme.