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Power United States

Virginia Approves First Offshore Wind-Energy Turbine For US Waters 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the sic-semper-ventus dept.
New submitter mike2400 writes "According to the Virginian Pilot, the U.S. is closer to having offshore wind turbines. Gamesa, a Spanish manufacturer, has partnered with Newport News Energy, a subsidiary of Newport News Ship Building and Huntington Ingles Industries, to build the first offshore wind turbine in the U.S. It will be located in the Chesapeake Bay off the shore of Cape Charles, VA, which is located on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The prototype 5 MW unit (the article said 5 kW — that's a typo) should be up and running by next year."
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Virginia Approves First Offshore Wind-Energy Turbine For US Waters

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  • How much is it costing to get that 5MW of power?

    • by MDillenbeck (1739920) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @10:55PM (#39504557)
      Dunno - how about asking how much the total life cycle cost of 5MW of wind power vs total life cycle cost of 5MW of coal power? In these costs, include all subsidies or their fractional equivalents. Don't forget the cost of transporting feedstock, the cost of mining the materials for construction of the initial plant, the subsidies included in the fuel to transport the feedstock, and so forth. Shall we get into potential health costs - both to those living near the power generators and those who mine the materials and feedstock? Often I find people exclude a lot from the costs of one source of power (coal) to skew the results. Now, I'm not saying wind power is cheap - but I am saying it is like a comparing an MMO to a stand-alone game... one you have to pay over the lifetime of use, the other you pay mainly up-front costs.
      • by blindseer (891256)

        If we're going to add up these costs for coal then we need consider the incidental costs for wind as well. First thing that comes to mind is the 5MW natural gas turbines needed for when the wind does not blow.

        • by cbope (130292) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:09AM (#39505859)

          You know... it's amazing that every time alternative energy opportunities come up in the US, there are always people standing in line with 1000 reasons why it CAN'T be done.

          With this kind of attitude you will NEVER get weaned off fossil fuels and digging big holes in the ground. You must be able to accept compromises, there is no 100% perfect solution to the world's energy needs. A balanced and layered approach is what will do the job, yet these are all blocked for insane reasons.

          Grow a pair, and build out the alternative energy infrastructure you desperately need. You can no longer rely on fossil fuels as your main energy source. You will need nuclear, wind, solar and water power generation to provide your energy. Yes, taken individually, each have their drawbacks. That is why you need a layered approach. Combined, there is no reason why they can't replace fossil fuels.

          Stop whining and DO SOMETHING!

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          When the wind doesn't blow, the power is supplied by the same standard power plants that have been running all this time. When the wind blows, those standard power plants can decrease their output. At least that's what they do in countries like Spain. In some cases, energy from the wind is stored in uphill reservoirs at night and used when demand is high. New batteries, hydrogen from electrolysis and other energy storage means are being developed.
        • by Chrisq (894406)

          If we're going to add up these costs for coal then we need consider the incidental costs for wind as well. First thing that comes to mind is the 5MW natural gas turbines needed for when the wind does not blow.

          This won't be a problem in practice until/unless wind power reaches around 10% of generation capacity. I hope it will be an issue eventually, but it is far from it at the moment

          • by inpher (1788434)

            This won't be a problem in practice until/unless wind power reaches around 10% of generation capacity. I hope it will be an issue eventually, but it is far from it at the moment

            At that point (>10%) the wind power generators should be spread over a very large area, reducing the probability that the entire installed base of generators will generate a low output at the same time. There are also other things to consider such as the likelihood that calm days will be sunnier days (not always, but often) therefore somewhat increasing the output from solar power. Combined with a smart grid and other sources of electricity such as nuclear and gas and tidal power there you have a recipe

            • by Chrisq (894406)

              This won't be a problem in practice until/unless wind power reaches around 10% of generation capacity. I hope it will be an issue eventually, but it is far from it at the moment

              At that point (>10%) the wind power generators should be spread over a very large area, reducing the probability that the entire installed base of generators will generate a low output at the same time. There are also other things to consider such as the likelihood that calm days will be sunnier days (not always, but often) therefore somewhat increasing the output from solar power. Combined with a smart grid and other sources of electricity such as nuclear and gas and tidal power there you have a recipe for a coal-free future.

              There is also the ability to use pumped/stored hydropower combined with wind power to respond to peak demand or a short time when all other sources of at a low.

              True, I have seen analysis that shows that continent sized grids can guarantee supply. The other thing that I think could be explored is variable pricing to large industrial consumers, though this should be put in place as a "green energy discount" - i.e. cheaper than now at times when there is an excess amount. Some industries can time their consumption to take advantage of lower price. I know that in the UK water companies pump water into towers and high-level reservoirs at night when electric demand is l

        • by stomv (80392)

          A fair point, the grid needs both energy (which winds provide) and capacity (of which winds don't provide much). As a result, wind turbines don't get full capacity credit -- a 100MW wind farm doesn't get 100MW of capacity credit, but it doesn't get 0MW either. After all, given the amount of wind turbines in most regions, there is enough geographic diversity that there is always some wind generation. Each ISO determines their own capacity credit. MISO [midwest] uses 20% -- a 100 MW wind installation "nee

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          That is actually better than nuclear. In the UK nuclear is not considered a reliable source of energy because a given reactor could suddenly go offline for any number of reasons. Wind is considered reliable because wind speed is easily predictable in the short term and because there are lots of turbines a small number of failures won't knock out hundreds of megawatts.

          In other words we need just as much reserve capacity for nuclear, only it has to be available instantly instead of with a half hour spool-up t

  • If a $2.1 million bond is required in case they need to remove the structure. The article says nothing about how much it will cost and if this investment will pay off in the long run. I doubt it especially since the turbine only has an expected life of 20 years.
    • by icebike (68054) *

      Twenty years is a long time. And after 20 years, you pull the turbine at the top of the towers and replace it with a new one, and slap the blades back on. The new one will be more efficient, cost less, and probably weigh less too, due to technology improvements over time.

      The hard part is getting it permitted and construction started.
      Keeping them maintained after the fact is just routine.

      • by haruchai (17472)
        For offshore turbines in salt water, there may be signficantly more maintenance involved. But nothing that would be a showstopper. After all, this isn't groundbreaking - Denmark installed a 11 turbine farm over 20 yrs ago. That said, replacing the huge blades / nacelles on modern turbines at sea could get really tricky - those steady winds and rough seas work against you when there's major maintenance.
    • Re:Too expensive (Score:5, Informative)

      by c0lo (1497653) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @10:57PM (#39504567)

      If a $2.1 million bond is required in case they need to remove the structure. The article says nothing about how much it will cost and if this investment will pay off in the long run. I doubt it especially since the turbine only has an expected life of 20 years.

      In my understanding, it will cost nothing the taxpayer. TFA quotes:

      Gamesa Energy USA, which is partnering with Huntingon Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, to develop and test new offshore wind technologies that will reduce the cost of wind power

      The purpose of the project is to advance the demonstration of Gamesa Energy USA, LLC's new offshore WTG technology, the G11X, specifically designed for deployment in offshore wind environments worldwide.

      Not only that it will cost nothing the taxpayer, but Gamesa pays an one-time royalty for the piece of ocean's bottom it uses and set aside the bond for removing the installation if/when decommissioned. Even more:

      Although the project is just one single wind turbine generator and is not principally intended as major energy supply source, an added benefit of the prototype will be the production of up to five megawatts of clean, renewable wind power to the local Virginia transmission grid for public use.

      In other words, making Virginia (and it's governor) look better, while being paid for it.

      Can we stop whining now?

      • Re:Too expensive (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JazzHarper (745403) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @11:35PM (#39504795) Journal

        To be a bit more specific, the bond is posted to make sure that the cost of removing the structure is covered, even if the company goes out of business. At today's interest rates, that should not be a terrible burden on the company. (They probably issued bonds to cover the bond).

        Based on what is described in the article, this is how it should be done, IMO. No subsidies or tax gimmicks. The company, not the taxpayer, bears the economic risk. I tend to be skeptical of the viability of a lot of these alternative energy projects, but if they can make this work profitably, or even come close to breaking even while advancing the state of the art, it's a win for everyone. More power to 'em.

    • Re:Too expensive (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Qzukk (229616) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @11:09PM (#39504643) Journal

      If a $2.1 million bond is required in case they need to remove the structure.

      Yeah, clearly they should just work like every other industry in America and when they close up shop, dump it on the taxpayers as a Superfund site.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160)

        Yeah, clearly they should just work like every other industry in America and when they close up shop, dump it on the taxpayers as a Superfund site.

        While it might be different now, it's worth remembering that the Superfund program was remarkably shoddy, bureaucratic and should have been unconstitutional as an ex post facto law (it's status as civilian rather than criminal law seems more a dodge to get around that). So naturally, it was more reasonable for companies which had engaged in lawful activities to go bankrupt than deal with many years of Superfund legal nonsense and vast liabilities.

        And given that the taxpayers voted for the people who crea

    • by decora (1710862) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @01:17AM (#39505315) Journal

      you dont want to build anything even remotely wasteful in regards to solar or wind, but by god lets throw a trillion dollars down the toilet to invade iraq and afghanistan for ten fucking years and accomplish some goal that nobody ever defined clearly.

  • Not so fast (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @10:44PM (#39504471)

    Its now a race to see who can get the first turbine up and spinning before anyone can claim to be first.

    After years of opposition by Ted Kennedy, the Cape Cod wind farm was granted approval and all the law suits have pretty much played out.
    The Cape Wind Farm gained final construction approval [mnn.com] about this time last year (April 2011). Held up by yet another appeal due VFR (small plane) flights [courthousenews.com] flying below regulation minimum altitude, it is expected to pass this hurdle as well, just like every other wind farm has. The opposition group has recently been fined for election violations [capewind.org].

    But Approval does not mean construction has started, and both of these projects seem to be at the same point in their development.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's being held up because they've only found a buyer for half their energy output. The state is trying to get the other (there are two) big energy company that does business in the state to buy the other half, but since the Cape Wind rate is substantially higher than market (talking something like 18 cents per kWH) they haven't made the sale yet. Mass. has been exerting pressure by threatening to hold up approval for a big acquisition by the holdout energy co.

      • by taxman_10m (41083)

        I've always wondered how much the 10 years or so of foot dragging is figured into the Cape Wind rate. Anyone have an idea?

      • As part of the NStar-Northeastern merger, the new company has agreed to purchase 27.5% of the output from the Cape Wind project. See http://www.wbur.org/2012/02/15/cape-wind-power [wbur.org]

        That means that Cape Wind has got contracts for 77.5% of their output -- enough to satisfy the bankers that the project will have the cash flow to repay the bankers. Which is to say, that is no longer a Cape Wind hurdle.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Delaware also approved a wind farm three or four years ago.Seventeen miles off the Delaware coastline. Delawareans also have found out that approval does not mean instant construction. Lack of funding on the federal level has basically shut the building down.This plan was approved by the energy company that services Delaware but the companies that attempted to actually build the farm either went out of business or failed to get funding.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/solar-wind/texas-to-cape-wind [popularmechanics.com]

      Texas is in the race, too. They have a stronger history of offshore infrastructure thanks to drilling for oil in the gulf, not to mention fewer environmental regulations and the largest onshore wind-power industry in the nation. Still, a couple of Texas offshore projects have been saying they'll have the first offshore turbine within a year... for the past two or three years.

      It sounds like Virginia is pretty far behind, if they're

  • why wind is ever considered over solar? I mean, if the Sun dies, so do we, whereas if the wind stop blowing... no power.
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      why wind is ever considered over solar? I mean, if the Sun dies, so do we, whereas if the wind stop blowing... no power.

      As far as a solar power plant is concerned, the sun 'dies' every evening, and stays 'dead' until sunrise the next day.

      • by inpher (1788434)

        why wind is ever considered over solar? I mean, if the Sun dies, so do we, whereas if the wind stop blowing... no power.

        As far as a solar power plant is concerned, the sun 'dies' every evening, and stays 'dead' until sunrise the next day.

        Exactly, but as there are some solutions [wikipedia.org], then we can factor in the fact that peak power demand is usually in the daytime at about 30% more power demanded at noon compared to the low at about three in the morning. Though most (probably all) alternative sources are best when they work in tandem, for example there is likely to be more wind when there is less sun and the other way around.

  • Do I understand ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BlueTak (1218450) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:06AM (#39504957)
    Reading the article, I understand that there is, just now, no offshore wind turbine near the coast of the US. It's so incredible for us Europeans, who have thousands of them for some years now that I think I have missed something....
    • by Luckyo (1726890)

      You mostly missed on a lot of coal and natural gas plants ready to pick up the slack and massive maintenance costs.

    • Re:Do I understand ? (Score:4, Informative)

      by khallow (566160) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:47AM (#39505197)
      Yes, there are two reasons. First, the US doesn't subsidize wind like the European countries do. Second, the US has vastly more land-based wind power. That's still filling up.

      There may also be serious regulatory obstacles as well. For example, the entire California coastline is a national monument. That's 1350 km roughly of 20,000 km of US coastline (including some of the largest population centers in the US). Similarly, Hawaii has 1200 km of coastline which is public property. There are smaller areas with similar laws such as the Outer Banks of North Carolina (a 110 km part is a national seashore).

      A lot of coast just isn't near populated areas too. Alaska has almost 11,000 km of coastline, only a little of which is near any area with even modest population.
      • by BlueTak (1218450)
        OK Thanks for your clear explanations !
      • by stomv (80392)

        California also can't have much wind because there's not much shallow water. The geology results in California being near a shelf of sorts -- the water depth gets very deep very close to shore. Wind turbines are built in shallow water, for obvious reasons. Most of California doesn't have the geology for offshore wind turbines.

        • by khallow (566160)
          I guess I figured they could put them on floating structures too. But that does seem rather complicated with lots of little, moving, easy to break pieces.
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The EU dumped cash into them. The US has a powerful coal, oil, gas lobby.
      The lack of a neat feedin "tax" and real political cash at risk makes it different in the USA.
      The US elite also like their sailing and views. Power is best from the inner fly over states with lots of poverty.
      Reality for the UK is setting in http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100142400/wind-farms-even-worse-than-we-thought/ [telegraph.co.uk]
      i.e. the feed in tax in the EU and the energy lobby/wealth vote in the US are two different boo
      • by mk1004 (2488060)
        Interesting. The report http://thegwpf.org/images/stories/gwpf-reports/hughes-windpower.pdf [thegwpf.org] states "...would require a total investment of some £120 billion in wind turbines and back-up. The same amount of electricity could be generated by gas-fired power plants that would only cost £13 billion..." OK, fine. But that's the cost of the hardware. How much is the cost of fuel to run those gas-fired power plants? Wind turbines and gas-fired plants both require maintenance and overhaul/replacement, b
  • Placing a new obstacle in the bay with high maritime traffic is asking for trouble. It may result in something similar to the recent Concordia crash or bus crash in tunnel.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Normally offshore windturbines are placed in places where the water-depth is not too deep (the companies are working on making floating windturbines, but they are not ready yet), so it would normally not be in the way of maritime traffic. But yes, it is a obstacle if you dont pay attention to where you are going.

    • by mike2400 (750020)
      Not really. The Turbine is going up in a very wide part of the bay. The only traffic channel that it will come near to would be the channel to Cape Charles. The main commercial channels are a few miles away from the site. I know that there is a lot of things going into this unit that will ensure that it won't be a impediment to traffic on the bay. If something does hit it then they have gone out of their way and ignored many audible/visual and physical warnings to do so.
      • by Max_W (812974)
        I am a navigator myself and I am not comfortable with the idea of new obstacles appearing in water. In bad weather it may be an issue.

        Besides people do make human errors. In such cases it is good if the environment is at least a bit forgiving.
  • by shoehornjob (1632387) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @06:54AM (#39507089)

    Delaware is the first state (that I'm aware of) to propose off shore wind farms. Of course between the politicians and the special interests we managed to F#$ck it up. It's really a shame because (since I've lived here 10yrs) certain parts of the state have always had energy delivery problems and this project would have done a lot of good. Hopefully Virginia will have more luck with their offshore wind project.

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