Offshore, Project Development, Wind Power

Breeze is Picking Up for Off-Shore Wind Power

If a New York-based energy company has its way, waters off the east coast of the United States will soon be home to several wind energy farms. In fact, if everything goes according to plan, coastal wind farms could be harnessing more than 12.5 gigawatts (GW) of electricity.

Shirley, New York – November 18, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] If a New York-based energy company has its way, waters off the east coast of the United States will soon be home to several wind energy farms. In fact, if everything goes according to plan, coastal wind farms could be harnessing more than 12.5 gigawatts (GW) of electricity. Recently formed Winergy LLC, has undertaken an ambitious plan working on the preliminary research to identify 25 potential wind farm locations along the east coast, and is welcoming input on the projects, said Winergy President Dennis Quaranta. Although it’s uncertain if all 25 projects will reach fruition, Winergy’s projects stand the chance to triple wind production in the United States. Some may call Winergy’s potential projects overly ambitious but they do mirror the exponential growth the industry has achieved in recent years. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) there were 10 MW of installed wind energy capacity in the U.S. in 1981. With improvements in technology and favorable state legislation, that capacity rose to 2,554 MW in 2000. That growth in wind power was then nearly doubled to 4,261 MW by 2001. Most of Winergy’s potential projects are hundreds of MW each and are proposed for sites off the coasts of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Some are over 1000 MW each including a 506-turbine 1,821 MW proposal for Gulf Bank off the coast of Maryland. Offshore wind farms, however would be a new step for the United States. Companies such as Cape Wind Associates, who are in the process of installing a data tower to evaluate the feasibility of a 420 MW wind farm off of Cape Cod Massachusetts and Winergy are navigating uncharted waters. “It’s not going to be easy, it’s never been done in this country so we have lot of work to do,” Quaranta said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who are the regulatory and governing body for off shore wind projects, are in new territory as well. “We’ll be sorting through new questions,” said Karen Adams from the Army Corps. “Off shore wind farms are a new industry, and we’ll need to figure out what the issues are.” Numerous opposition groups against the Cape Wind proposal have questioned the regulatory process and some even argue the validity of the Army Corps’ jurisdiction in the process. Adams doesn’t question it at all. “We’ve had a regulatory program – section 10 – concerning rivers and harbors since 1899,” said Adams. “Under that authority we regulate all work in navigable waters – clearly we have experience.” However, since wind farm permitting is a new process for everyone involved, the Army Corps is requiring a thorough environmental assessment of Cape Wind’s possible impacts. Winergy’s projects, once formally submitted would undergo the same scrutiny. Adams said many people were surprised to find out the Army Corps has nearly exclusive regulatory and permitting control over the projects but she stressed they are working closely with other agencies to determine the impacts and feasibility of Cape Wind. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the Coast Guard, and the Federal Aviation Administration will be contributing as well, Adams said. As the Corps is in new territory, the permitting process will take considerably longer than typical projects. The Corps is conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will include an endangered species study. “Ordinarily the permit process takes 120 days but we need to be very thorough with this, said Adams. “The EIS tends to be hundreds of pages long, but we did determine that Cape Wind requires and EIS – that’s what takes a lot of time.” Once Winergy’s proposals are submitted for permitting, Quaranta anticipates another three to five year process of planning and regulatory approval before construction could begin. Construction that could change the east coast’s horizon and introduce a new era of clean energy production in the United States.