LOCE Wind and Wave Energy Weblog

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

Monday, March 14, 2005

Project May Get Waved Off In New Jersey

Here's yet another example of how conflicting regulatory policies and a propensity for overregulating even temporary prototype projects threatens to stifle ocean development. This article,
Project to use wave energy offshore to generate power
, Todd Bates, Asbury Park Press (03/13/05) reports on the PowerBuoys, made by Ocean Power Technologies Inc. of Pennington, New Jersey which convert wave energy into electricity. According to the article,
OPT hopes to anchor one several miles off Tuckerton by the end of next month as part of a $500,000 demonstration project funded by the state Board of Public Utilities, according to company and BPU officials. The testing of the buoy system would last three months.

Guess what? Even testing a demo project these days isn't as easy as it ought to be. First, the article states that environmental activists said the upcoming demonstration project off Tuckerton appears to lack regulatory review, especially since acting Gov. Codey has imposed a 15-month moratorium on offshore windmills (for more information about the moratorium and offshore wind, see Mr. Bates' companion article, DEP Sees Conflict in Using Oceans for Turbines, Asbury Park Press (3/14/05).
New Jersey DEP officials state that they believe that the project would need a state waterfront development permit or a determination on whether it is consistent with the state's coastal zone management program. OPT acknowleges that Coast Guard permission is required as well as navigation aids for the buoys - but does not believe a state permit is needed. Moreover, though it is not clear whether the buoys will generate power during the testing phase, if the project ever begins to generate, FERC will likely come assert jurisdiction as well.

There's simply no way to advance ocean technology in the United States unless developers can easily test demo projects and gather data on operation and environmental impacts. The regulation that New Jersey seeks to inflict on a three month test of a few tiny buoys in a huge expanse of ocean will force these projects to sink rather than swim.

More Efforts to Promote Wave Energy in the United States

In this recent article
Wave of the future?
, Doreen Leggett, Cape Cod Online (3/11/05)gives an update on efforts to conduct feasibility studies for wave energy plants on the East Coast. The article begins with a proposal, discussed in a recently issued EPRI Report for a wave energy project off Wellfleet, Massachusetts that would provide power for homes on the Outer Cape. The article continues:

Roger Bedard, ocean energy program manger for California-based EPRI, has been visiting the East Coast to generate support for wave and tidal energy. He is touting feasibility studies that show wave energy facilities - in spots like off Wellfleet - can actually be cheaper than wind if the technology is perfected.
Bedard has been involved in renewable energy for 25 years, and in the last year and a half has seen an increase in the possibilities for wave energy.
"It seems to me that the stars were aligned to begin a wave energy project in this country," Bedard said. He explained that the West Coast has better waves, but anywhere on the Lower Cape the wave energy resource is good, not so much on the Upper Cape.

The article also mentions that permitting problems have mired other the progress of a demonstration wave energy project off the coast of Rhode Island. A group, the Offshore Wind Energy Collaborative (OWEC) has been formed which intends to deal with some of the regulatory issues complicating wave and tidal development.

A Reminder, that Even for Wind, Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

This op-ed piece
The Aesthetics of Wind Power
, by Lefteris Pavlides, Providence Journal (3/7/05) offers another perspective on the widely held view, expressed by Massachusetts Governor Romney last year, that "wind turbines are not pretty." Here's an excerpt of Pavlides column:

As a professor of architecture, I understand the visual logic of this phenomenon. I teach that forms made to move in wind -- such as sailboats and Porsches -- are inherently beautiful. Experts discuss the artistic qualities of aerodynamic lines and the kinetic grace of modern windmills, using such terms as proportion, contrast, rhythm and movement to express what we all experience.

From an abstract view, the graceful modern windmills are even more beautiful than their ancient counterparts. A Cape Cod sculptor recently wrote to me, "[T]he beauty of modern windmills is a joyous scene to behold. As sail boats provide visual delight while transforming air into propulsion, so will windmills that catch ambient breezes for essential power."

Non-experts in aesthetics also discuss the delight of watching windmills. An engineer with no artistic training sent me his unsolicited opinion that the Danish Horns Rev offshore wind park was "one of the most inspiring and thrilling sights seen from the Blavaand lighthouse observatory deck."

To adapt an adage, beauty is in the eye and also the mind of the beholder. Our judgment of what is beautiful is based not just on abstract qualities of form. Modern windmills, for instance, have acquired a broad range of connotations.

As we evaluate the aesthetic and visual impacts of wind, it's important to keep all of these judgments in mind.