Study Shows Offshore Drilling Alternatives (USA)

Offshore drilling is out, but offshore wind offers new possibilities for the Atlantic coast. A National Wildlife Federation study should encourage wind-turbine experiments that could generate significant amounts of power.

The study details the potential for wind power off the Atlantic coast, and the comparatively slight efforts to harness that source. The federation’s report calls for a permitting process that will expedite wind-power projects while establishing priority zones for offshore turbines.

It also urges more research on offshore wind technologies that will produce jobs as well as electrical power. That recommendation should resonate locally, considering the work now under way on Clemson University’s wind turbine facility at the former Navy Base in North Charleston. Clemson is building a nearly $100 million research center to study wind energy. Meanwhile, Santee Cooper is considering putting 40 wind turbines off the state’s coast.

Existing proposals for the length of the Atlantic coast could generate power equivalent of up to a half dozen coal-fired plants, the study concludes. That would be enough to supply the needs of about 1.5 million homes annually.

But so far, “not a single offshore wind turbine is spinning off the Atlantic coast of the United States,” the report says.

European countries, by contrast, have more than 900 offshore turbines producing enough power for at least 450,000 homes.

South Carolina officials have estimated that the state could create 10,000 jobs if it assumes a leading role in wind-power generation. The Clemson research facility could position the state for such a role.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wants to encourage offshore wind projects by an expedited permit process that could advance offshore leases within two years, rather than the seven-year period now projected.

This year’s oil-spill disaster in the Gulf should encourage alternative energy generation. So should the nation’s continued dependence of other oil-producing nations, some of which are hostile to the United States.

The federation study concludes that the potential for power generation is about 35 times greater than would be realized from those projects already on the drawing board.

Its findings should encourage efforts toward offshore wind power — starting with that “single offshore wind turbine … spinning off the Atlantic coast.”



Source: postandcourier, December 27, 2010