Grand Strand Could get Wind Farm (USA)

The impact of wind energy was the topic of a public forum Monday night held by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

The Alliance presented findings about how much energy wind turbines could generate along the Grand Strand.

If you were to take the wind generated annually off the coast, you could generate something like 200 percent of all of our power needs,” said Dr. Paul Gayes, a panelist at the meeting. Gayes is also the Director of the Center for Marine and Wetland Studies at Coastal Carolina University. Gayes joined Dr. Nicholas C. Rigas, a senior scientist at Clemson University, and Elizabeth Kress, a principal engineer with Santee Cooper.

All three talked about how South Carolina’s coast is in competition with other states across the East and West Coasts for Department of Energy and investor money to build the first wind turbine farm in the United States.

According to the Assessment of Offshore Energy, South Carolina ranks 5th among those on the Atlantic Seaboard in terms of wind energy resource. North Carolina, Massachusetts, Maine, and New York are the top four.

Preliminary plans and designs, Kress said, are for a farm that would include 8 to 13 offshore wind turbines. They have discussed areas like Little River and Georgetown, because they are less populated. The turbines would be massive in size, 80 feet high with 50 to 70 meter long propeller like blades, Kress said.

Some at the meeting raised the question of who would own the water where the structures would be built. Kress said the state owns water as far at three nautical miles off the coast, after that, the water belongs to the federal government and is leased out.

The pattern is almost identical to what is done in the Gulf for oil,” she said. “It’s a very slow and cumbersome process. Right now, 10 years for offshore wind, it’s just so long.

Rigas says another issue is hurricane resistance.

The issue is what are people going to require them to build? You can build them to withstand a category 5 hurricane, but the debate is a category 5 might come every 30 years or so, and the life of a turbine is 20 or so years,” he said.

He added that turbines on the market right now are made to shut down and stop spinning in 60 mile per hour winds.

The panelists agreed, there’s little question that building a wind turbine field off the coast of the Grand Strand would create jobs.

Ten to twenty-thousand jobs,” Rigas said following the meeting.

Those jobs would mainly be in manufacturing, as the panelists suggested the sheer size of one offshore turbine would be too large to ship.

The other question that arose at the meeting, would enough wind be produced for these giant turbines to be worth the price?

Rigas said countries like England, Japan, Brazil, and Ireland are already using and investing in turbine technology. He added Europe is leading the world market.

It takes eight mile per hour winds for turbines to produce electricity. For one small onshore turbine, like the SkyStream in North Myrtle Beach to reach full capacity, it needs 29 mile per hour sustained winds.

The Skystream is operating about 15 percent of the time,” Kress said. “These farms are expected to work at 40 percent.”

Many people say groups like Santee Cooper, Clemson University and Coastal Carolina University have laid the groundwork for the technology to come to South Carolina. Now, companies are talking about when they may debut the technology along the Atlantic coast.

It’s a whole new industry. It’s incredibly exciting. Over the next 20 years or so, the Department of Energy has a target of 54,000 megawatts, so that might be 10,000 wind turbines in the waters of the Atlantic and the Great Lakes where there’s zero today. So that’s a tremendous, tremendous opportunity for a whole new industry,” said Tim Ryan, president of Apex Offshore Wind said in December at the Skystream launch.

Researchers say there’s enough wind energy off the South Carolina coast to provide energy for tens of thousands of homes.

The U.S. Energy Department says the winds off the coast could generate as much as 5,000 megawatts of electricity. A single megawatt can power up to 1,000 homes.

In January, The Federal Energy Department gave Clemson $45 million in stimulus money for new center to test wind turbines along the South Carolina coast. The state and private donors are providing another $53 million

The nearly $100 million facility will be built in a warehouse at the old Charleston Naval Base in North Charleston and is scheduled to open in late 2012.

The center will test drive trains to take energy from the wind turbine’s rotating blades to power electric generators.

Bottom line, the panelists said, is the Grand Stand could be a landing point for the wind energy industry.

A lot of things would need to happen, but we could have a preliminary or demonstration farm in three to four years. Ten to fifteen for sure,” Kress said.

by Lindsey Theis (carolinalive)

Source: carolinalive, July 26, 2011;