And now for some good news in offshore energy production…


According to the Boston Globe, Secretary Ken Salazar (former U.S. Senator from Colorado and current Secretary of the Interior) approved the country's first offshore wind farm.

Cape Wind Associates plans to construct 130 turbines 5 miles off Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound's Horseshoe Shoal by the end of this year, with operations expected to continue for 21 years.

Average annual wind power distribution for Mas...

In addition to the NIMBY resistance from locals in Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, as well as the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the project had been opposed by two Wampanoag Native American tribes for two reasons:

  • spiritually, the 400 ft turbines would disturb sun greetings; and,
  • archaeologically, as Nantucket Sound was once exposed land, the turbines might disturb artifacts and burial grounds now located on the sea bed
Martha's Vineyard
Image via Wikipedia

Some combination of painting the turbines off white and financial compensation is expected to placate the Wampanoag. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is filing suit to get an injunction to stop the project.

The wind farm is expected to generate about 75% of the electric needs of the Cape and its islands, but at higher prices than that of traditional coal and gas power (again, according to the Boston Globe).

Cape Wind Associates claims that the project will, overall, cut electricity costs. Their simulations (using PROSYM) project annual savings of about $25 million for the New England electricity market.

Currently, wind power only accounts for about 1% of the U.S. energy market, compared with 4.8% for the entire European Union and 7.5% for Germany alone.

Map showing estimated wind resources and exist...
Image via Wikipedia

Since the supply of wind fluctuates, negative energy prices sometimes occur in places with poor integration with the overall transmission grid. This occurred in Texas in early 2008, and is a continuing problem for German utility companies, who had received government subsidies to construct turbines in the first pace.

There are measures that power companies are taking to fix this problem.

Energy storage:

"In Scandinavia, Danish wind power is used to pump water into Norwegian and Swedish reservoirs and later released to drive hydroelectric plants when the wind is not blowing."

Minimum price:

"Nord Pool, the Nasdaq OMX Group Inc.-owned Scandinavian power bourse, last year took steps to encourage generators to limit production by implementing a minimum price. The most generators would pay users to take their power is 200 euros per megawatt hour if there is excess electricity from too much wind."

Comments

Renee's picture

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I would be curious to look at the conclusions of the PROSYM simulation and see where the purported savings are coming from, since it is obviously not from price. Also, although I have to give the Wampanoag the benefit of the doubt, I do wonder where their motives truly lie if their concerns about disturbed sun greetings can be appeased with money.

MMcKeonSlattery's picture

Renee, First, thanks for reading and commenting. Second, if you click on the Cape Wind Associates link above, you'll see a little more detail on that simulation itself. If I'm reading it correctly, it takes into account factors involved in the spot market pricing scheme that sets prices for electricity in New England. They go into more detail on spot market pricing here: http://www.capewind.org/modules.php?op=modload&am...

Grace A. Larson's picture

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