Sunday, January 20, 2008

Reply to Webber's Offshore Energy Post

Current offshore wind technology has a depth limit of 30 meters, limiting offshore wind to shallow depths. This is not much of a problem for countries that have shallow depths. Countries such as the U.K., Denmark and Holland have many shallow sites, most of which are found on the North Sea. These countries are leading the forefront in offshore wind technology and have successfully constructed offshore wind farms. According to the British Wind Energy Association, there are several plans of building 1 gigawatt offshore wind farms. Granted, all of these offshore wind farms are highly subsidized, the cost of construction has been going down. Although lately, due to the high demand for wind turbines (offshore and onshore), cost has been on the rise. Offshore wind farms does have its advantages. There are no issues with size and noise restrictions. Countries with limited onshore sites, such as the U.K., Denmark and Holland are more invested in offshore wind technology due to a binding agreement among leaders of the EU of 20% energy derived from renewable energy by 2020. The U.S., on the other hand, has plenty of potential onshore sites and probably will not reach saturation anytime soon. But areas with high population densities near bodies of water, should consider offshore wind farms. These farms can be in near proximity of the city without compromising land usage. Boston is one city that comes to mind. Land is very limited and very expensive. Currently, plans of constructing an offshore wind farm are on the way to provide 2/3 of the energy demand of Cape Cod. There are some NIMBY issues from the rich, including Ted Kennedy. A study has estimated that the U.S. has a potential offshore resource of 907 gigawatts. 810 gigawatts of the energy is reportedly found in depths deeper than 30 meters. At the current economic and political climate, there is not much motivation to produce deep water wind farms in the U.S. Understandably, the deep water construction industry would greatly benefit from this. Like the evolution of offshore oil rigs, many believe that there will be a similar progression in regards to offshore wind technology. But there needs to be a demand. Currently, I believe that there is not enough interest stateside.

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