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US To Fire Up Big Offshore Wind Energy Projects 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-way-the-wind-blows dept.
coondoggie writes "The US government today took a bold step toward perhaps finally getting some offshore wind energy development going with $50 million in investment money and the promise of renewed effort to develop the energy source. The plan focuses on overcoming three key challenges (PDF) that have made offshore wind energy practically non-existent in the US: the relatively high cost of offshore wind energy; technical challenges surrounding installation, operations, and grid interconnection; and the lack of site data and experience with project permitting processes."
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US To Fire Up Big Offshore Wind Energy Projects

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  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Monday February 07, 2011 @09:23PM (#35132896)

    The original headline is much better.

    It reflects reality. Not cheer leading.

    50 million isn't a big enough subsidy for anything 'big' that is this uneconomical.

    • by icebike (68054) on Monday February 07, 2011 @10:28PM (#35133416)

      But it seems both the summary and TFA overlooked the FOURTH big Key Challenge to getting off shore wind projects started, namely Ted Kennedy, (rip).

      A steadfast opponent of anything in his back yard, he pretty well held the entire off shore industry in check for 30 years.

    • Exactly and this technology is already being commercialised over her in Europe. The three big challenges are:

      * Built low cost offshore platforms. This involves taking a lot of technology from the oil industry and coming up with designs that don't require huge foundations and can be floated into place.

      * VSC - Voltage Source Conversion, this is much smaller (Thought slightly less efficient) than normal LCC HVDC schemes, this technology allows you to squeeze a HVDC scheme into an offshore platform.

      * Offshore

  • Only three problems? (Score:4, Informative)

    by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Monday February 07, 2011 @09:27PM (#35132924) Homepage Journal
    What about local opposition? [wikipedia.org] The Martha's Vineyard wind farm faced a regular nor'easter of NIMBYism.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Two options:

      1. Build out to sea or somewhere else no-one can complain about. The US has both plenty of coast for wind and plenty of uninhabited wilderness for solar.

      2. Do it anyway. Back when the UK national grid (electricity distribution network) was built they just got on and did it, despite having to put pylons all over the place. We needed it and would rapidly become a third world nation without it so there was no question. Maybe things are less urgent with renewable energy but no-one wants nuclear in t

  • Massachusetts? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmccay (70985) on Monday February 07, 2011 @09:27PM (#35132926) Journal

    Since Ted Kennedy is gone, may they'll put it up there.

    • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Monday February 07, 2011 @09:34PM (#35132964)

      You beat me to it. I was going to say in response to: "The plan focuses on overcoming three key challenges (PDF) that have made offshore wind energy practically non-existent..."

      Ted Kennedy and Walter Cronkite are both dead now. Who's the third challenger?

      • Re:Massachusetts? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jmichaelg (148257) on Monday February 07, 2011 @11:40PM (#35133902) Journal
        Kennedy and Cronkite weren't the the first and second. They were different manifestations of the real challenger, Nimby. Nimby is always there. Nimby doesn't want nuclear, coal, oil, gas, hydro, solar, or wind power. Nimby doesn't go away until things get so bad that all his neighbors tell him to stfu because they're sick of freezing to death.
        • by Spoke (6112)

          Nimby doesn't want nuclear, coal, oil, gas, hydro, solar, or wind power.

          Well - Nimby doesn't like solar in the deserts - but Nimby does like solar on roof tops and over parking lots.

  • by decora (1710862) on Monday February 07, 2011 @09:37PM (#35132998) Journal

    "the relatively high cost of offshore wind energy;"

    think about this for a moment. what would have happened if they had decided it cost too much to put lasers on sharks?

    we wouldn't have any shark based lasers then would we? and then Hitler would have won World War I, and we'd all be speaking Japanese.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Monday February 07, 2011 @09:40PM (#35133020)

    They flip out when someone says, "Hey, let's just build a little Hiroshima or Nagasaki right across from your backyard!"

    The Kennedy Clan gets their drawer in an uproar, when anyone suggests that they build windmills anywhere near their property on Cape Cpd.

    So, sadly, switching to alternative energy sources is not a technological problem, but a political one.

    • by PPH (736903)
      Kennedy is dead. Start construction already.
  • $50 million from the government because there is no profit potential in private industry. Like every other green energy initiative. Remember Carter? This one too will fail. Wind is less than 1% as efficient as coal. You can't change physics. The government will take the hard earned money of young families anyway, mal-invest it, and divert it to cronies like Jeff Immelt at GE. A sick con where there is no accountability. How ironic when there is an amazing revolution going on in natural gas extraction from s
    • Re:Remember Carter? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wierd_w (1375923) on Monday February 07, 2011 @09:52PM (#35133142)

      Most of the pricepoint for wind is tied up in all the "Impact studies" that have been tied to it by various NIMBY groups.

      "how will it impact tourism?"
      "how will it impact the migratory habits of the eastern canada goose?"
      "how will it impact cellular telephone reception?" ... ... ...
      "How will it impact the local congressman's chances for re-election?"

      With pretty much all of them being valued at OVER the 50 million startup capital investment made by this move.
      Quite amusing how all these impact studies get tacked on to projects intended to make everyone's life better, but not on building or development projects of similar scope or magnitude in civic centers. When was the last time you saw a cellular telephone tower getting tied down with impact studies on sparrows? Didn't think so.

    • by bunratty (545641) on Monday February 07, 2011 @10:07PM (#35133264)
      Coal and natural gas may last a few hundred years. Wind will be available forever. We will have to switch away from fossil fuels at some point, no matter what objection to alternative energy you can produce. You can't change physics.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pcr_teacher (1977472)

      What does the efficiency matter when the resource is free? What is more important is the capital cost and
      the operating costs. I would be curious to see a citation for your claim of 1% efficiency of wind turbines.

      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        Because at some point you have to pay your initial investment plus interest, your maintenance, and your depreciation (because one day your windmill will be a bucket of rust and you will have to buy another). If you can't do all of those, it's better to put your money elsewhere.
        • at some point you have to pay your initial investment plus interest, your maintenance, and your depreciation (because one day your windmill will be a bucket of rust and you will have to buy another). If you can't do all of those, it's better to put your money elsewhere.

          You've hit the nail on the head! Exactly the problem with nuclear power!

          Oh, wait, you were talking about wind (where every one of the costs you describe are orders of magnitude lower than for a nuke plant)...

          • by Dunbal (464142) *

            Oh, wait, you were talking about wind (where every one of the costs you describe are orders of magnitude lower than for a nuke plant)...

            I'm not so sure. I mean none of us are sitting with the actual numbers in front of us, but anchoring a wind turbine to the sea floor can't be cheap at all. If bridges across rivers cost hundreds of millions of dollars, it gives us an idea that the cost is not negligible. Now you said that your wanted how many windmills in your wind farm, again?

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Depends where 'elsewhere' is. You have to evaluate wind against other forms of energy production, not just on its own merits as a business venture. In the medium to long term it stacks up pretty well, especially if you factor in the amount of government support there is for other types of power station to make them economical.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Byrel (1991884)

      Wind is less than 1% as efficient as coal.

      How can you define efficiency for both wind and coal? Typically the efficiency of a coal power plant is measured as the amount of recovered energy over the amount of released energy (from combustion). How do you define what energy is available for wind power?

      Even more importantly, we don't much care how much power is harvested from the wind; what we care about is total output over installation costs, or over maintenance costs. While the wind may not, strictly speaking, be an unlimited resource, it can be

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      $50 million from the government because there is no profit potential in private industry.
      Wind is less than 1% as efficient as coal.

      Add to this the NIMBY-s and here's how a great opportunity is lost. Here's a name to further google for: Samso [ngpowereu.com].

      But despite the utilitarian nature of Samso's achievements, the real winners of the project are the big financial investors. One of them is Jörgen Tranberg, who owns a 250-acre dairy farm. With help from the bank, the 55-year-old farmer invested 2.5 million euros in wind turbines. He paid 1.2 million euros for the one on his farm he owns outright and he is half-owner of one of the offshore turbines, too. He claims that on a good day the windmills alone can earn him 3,000 euros, as told by the Independent.

      My point: if the farmers(owners) would get the ownership of the turbines and start earning money (that means nobody would actually fuck their input stream), they'd sacrifice their NIMBY-sm in a blink.

    • by drsquare (530038) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:32AM (#35135008)

      Why is private profit more important than clean air and energy security? Switching to another fossil fuel is just bailing out the Titanic, you're still going down sooner or later.

      • by radja (58949)

        because pollution is not properly taken into account of profits. companies make the profits, everyone gets the pollution.

  • I thought the whole point of wind was that you didn't have to fire anything up.
  • When they chum the waters with seabirds, the fishing ought to be excellent!
    • by amiga3D (567632)

      I hadn't thought about that part. I'm for anything that will help do something about the damn seagulls.

  • Oh dear. It'll cost the oil and coal lobby at least that much in "campaign contributions" to make this problem go away.
    • Oh dear. It'll cost the oil and coal lobby at least that much in "campaign contributions" to make this problem go away.

      The average energy company out there is involved in multiple energy sources, both traditional and alternative. Finding a company that sticks to just oil or coal is pretty rare.

      I'm assuming by your comment that you have hatred towards the energy companies because they continue to use earth resources. If so, then you should look at this as a $50 million bonus to those exact same companies. It was their lobbying and campaign contributions that convinced the government to give away our money.

      As someone who h

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      I was under the impression that the oil companies were into alternative energy as well. They're looking for the next market to corner.

  • by Dolphinzilla (199489) on Monday February 07, 2011 @10:03PM (#35133224) Journal

    $50 million is not quite enough to cover the bureaucracy necessary to manage the effort....

    • by ErikZ (55491) *

      Yeah. I thought the super sized windmills are 5 million each?

      "US Government buys 10 windmills. Silent on what it blew 1 TRILLION DOLLARS on."

      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        5 million at the factory gate. Ship them out to sea, build concrete pylons for them, and rig all the power cables and I think suddenly we're talking about one or two windmills.
  • The Google offshore project will only generate 6,000 MW. That's merely the equivalent of 5 time-traveling DeLoreans!
  • US To Fire Up Big Offshore Wind Energy Projects

    That headline just seems seriously broken to me ... you can fire up a generator, or a boiler ... because, you know, there's fire involved ... but "firing up offshore wind energy" just seems rather incongruous.

    Sounds like someone is mixing their batter into their metaphors, or something like that.

  • ...let's waste it on tech we know would work; nuclear.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Monday February 07, 2011 @11:08PM (#35133720) Journal

    The article claims 3 challenges. I claim the article is worthless without addressing the 4th!

    the relatively high cost of offshore wind energy; technical challenges surrounding installation, operations, and grid interconnection; and the lack of site data and experience with project permitting processes."

    They missed NIMBYism!!! Amateurs.

    UNLESS, they included it in "...project permitting processes."

    Maybe now that the Kennedy's have more or less completely kicked off at this point, Obama can finally tap the North Eastern ocean?

    • by afidel (530433) on Monday February 07, 2011 @11:42PM (#35133920)
      Bring it to the rustbelt, we have some of the best spots for wind generation in the country, some of the dirtiest power production, and not so many up tight people worried about their view being ruined. Oh, and can float the parts out of the factory if you set it up in one of the hundreds of abandoned factories on the waterfronts thus reducing shipping costs to near free.
  • Harnessing wind and other green technologies is great, but I wouldn't bet my life on any of them except hydro. The problem with things like the wind is that when the wind stops blowing (or blows too strong), the wind turbines don't put out electricity. I remember driving by miles of idle windmills in California. Don't know why they weren't turning, but it indicates to me that there is an inherent problem with depending on the technology.

  • by jacks0n (112153) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @12:17AM (#35134124)

    "I believe that mountain lions go downwind to stalk their prey. Is there any chance that the increased wind caused by the windmills has led to an influx of mountain lions because their prey is easier to stalk? Somebody should look into this." -Anon Reader, Dec. 19, 2010

    "To the person who knows about the windmills in Western New York. Is there an entity to call to see is we can get them turned off for a couple weeks. We need some snow in the area before the people who plow snow go out of business. I think they keep pushing the storms back to the coast." -Anon Reader, Dec. 26, 2010

    "It was a very calm day today so I drove out to see the windmills to set the record straight. Just as I thought, there was no wind today because they were not moving at all. The next windy day, I am driving out again and I bet they will be turning like crazy." -Anon Reader, Jan. 9, 2011

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @12:20AM (#35134144) Journal
    People are going to bring up the inevitable comparison with Nuclear. So before they do Nuclear already has a healthy share of the DOE's development budget and it's only a good idea if you think a single energy solution will work. It won't. Wind is more scalable than Nuclear because 1 Gw of wind power can be brought on incrementally, 1Gw of nuclear power has to wait a minimum of ten years before the plant is complete. For the same reason a 1Gw reactor that is shut down produces 0Gw, A 1Gw wind farm with a wind generator shutdown produces almost full capacity minus the non-functioning generators.

    Nuclear occupies the mining space as well as the reactor space in land so they are probably about even there.

    The technology employed in a Nuclear reactor will be almost a decade out of date on day one of production presuming the very latest technology was implemented in the design. With a wind farm new technology can be implemented as old wind generators come off-line. This means the gap between technology updates for wind power are available much closer in time when compared to production, this means the rate of technology development in wind power is faster than nuclear.

    Wind power has a much lower energy cost to tear down because it can be demolished like a normal building, Nuclear power plant have very special and costly concerns when you have to tear them down and time will eventually take its toll on the reactor building.

    Before some one talks about "Only Nuclear can do base load", base load is a function of the entire grid not any one energy source.

    American are extremely blessed with wind power and indeed other sources. The potential exists to solve most, if not all of America's energy requirements. Every technology professional stands to benefit from the flow on effects of all alternate energy solution AND still use nuclear as a longer term solution as the technology is developed in that area. It's difficult to believe that there is only enough imagination for a Nuclear solution when, clearly, Solar and wind are very appealing technologically.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      Nuclear already has a healthy share of the DOE's development budget

      This meme (along with the one about fossil fuels getting the bulk of energy research dollars) really needs to die. It makes people who are pro-renewables look like extremists who'll bend the statistics any which way to try to make it support their position. Here's the breakdown on DOE funding dollars [nationalaglawcenter.org] (pdf warning). Divide it by the amount of electricity generated by source [wikipedia.org] to get our return on investment:

      Over 10 years (FY1998-FY2007):

  • $50 million is not that much. In Germany the investment in offshore wind energy in 2008 was € 25 000 million (approx $ 36 000 million). And Germany is only a small country and is not at the forefront of wind energy deployment. However, in Germany the owner of wind turbines get 9 cent per kWh at the beginning and 5 cent per kWh later as a guaranteed price for their electricity and if possible other plants have to reduce their output so that the electricity from renewable sources is consumed first. Howev

  • Not trying to be flamebait, but wind power is generally considered to be "free" power, but the energy is coming from somewhere. While we're not at a scale yet which could have an impact, has anyone studied the effect of taking that kinetic energy out of the weather system? Scaled up in a big way could we affect weather patterns?

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