Offshore and On the Grid
The technology that was developed in the twentieth century to generate electricity was amazing for its time. Unfortunately, large and sooty coal, oil and natural gas-powered plants are not clean options. These plants certainly keep the lights on, but their operation results in a number of environmental sacrifices. Alternative sources of electricity are also required because there's only so much coal under the surface; at some point, the price will be too high and the supply will be too low for practical use. You've probably heard of the alternatives, including solar cells and wind turbines. In spite of the challenges, off-shore wind energy is worth considering for many coastal regions in the United States.
According to William Pentland, writing for Forbes.com, the United States boasts more land-based wind turbines than any country in the world. In fact, a report in Scientific American claims that Americans generate 2.3 percent of their electricity this way: enough to power all of the homes (and dairies) in Wisconsin. Sadly, as of November 2010, our country doesn't have even one off-shore wind turbine. Pentland points out that this situation is likely to change, as there are projects in the planning stages that would install over 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power capacity in the near future.
Wind turbines are relatively safe, particularly in comparison with other forms of electricity generation. Some people object to wind turbines in terms of aesthetics, claiming that having white whirligigs sprout from rolling hills detracts from the natural beauty of their area. Placing those wind facilities offshore solves those problems for the most part. Still, there are some who object to what the wind turbines will look like, even though they will be very small on the horizon, if they're even visible at all. Offshore wind facilities also allow industrial, commercial and residential agencies to make use of the land that would otherwise be occupied by a power plant.
Another big roadblock to taking advantage of the wind on America's shores is the cost. Traditional power plants are certainly not cheap, but the established technology upon which they're built has been around so long that the cost per megawatt is much lower. Pentland cites government statistics that reveal the big roadblock to offshore wind power; each megawatt of added capacity in 2010 requires a capital investment of $4,250 per kilowatt.
As a result of the great promise of offshore wind farms, corporations are still pairing with federal and state authorities to increase the installed electric capacity. Though the two states are separated by quite a few miles, both Texas and New York are places that are fortunate enough to have offshore regions with conditions suitable for wind turbines to help produce more Texas and New York Electricity. Quite often, the amount of wind that occurs offshore is greater than the amount that reaches land; this creates the opportunity to capitalize upon wind power where there would otherwise be none.
The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory claims that the Gulf Coast of Texas includes thousands of square nautical miles that experience average wind speed of greater than 7m/s. (That's about 16 miles per hour.) Texas is likely to become the first state with offshore electric generation with the opening of the proposed and approved 300-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Galveston. When this project is a success, Texas will reinforce its leadership with both old kinds of energy and new.
New York has multiple coastlines that are suitable for development to produce more New York electricity. The shore of Long Island receives a lot of wind and completed facilities would help keep the lights on in Times Square. Hundreds of miles away, New York has coastline on two Great Lakes: Ontario and Erie. Siemens, the international engineering company, will provide wind turbines to be planted on the Lake Erie coast. According to brighterenergy.org's James Cartledge, the Lake Erie Alternative Power (LEAP) group will oversee the $13 billion project that will eventually incorporate 1,400 wind turbines located in the waters of Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.
Downstate officials are also working hard. The proposed Long Island – New York City Offshore Wind Project would be located about 13 nautical miles off of the Rockaway Peninsula. Officials claim the wind farm would have a capacity of 350 megawatts. (This means that Texans would have to step it up if they would still want to have the biggest and best offshore wind facility.)
While the challenges for offshore wind farms are many, the rewards will be great. As the technology becomes more commonplace, installation costs will decrease and Americans will receive an even higher return on their investment. Best of all, Americans would be able to decrease their reliance on messy fossil fuels, limited amounts of which are locked inside the earth.