Preparation begins in NJ for nation's first offshore wind farm
State officials say offshore wind energy could supply more power than a nuclear power plant.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - 15:35
HARVESTING WIND: Hundreds of windmills like this one could soon be constructed off the coast of Atlantic City, N.J. (Photo: Phault/Flickr)
Just last week, preparation began for what might be the nation's first completed offshore wind-generated power project, off the coast of Atlantic City, N.J. On Saturday, a buoy equipped with many scientific instruments was deployed into the water, for the purpose of discerning the best possible spot for an offshore wind farm.
An offshore wind farm will include "pylon-mounted turbines perched high above the waves, driven by huge, aerodynamic blades spinning freely to catch the wind." These windmills are eventually expected to potentially provide power for millions of New Jersey homes.
Constructing wind farms offshore provides many advantages. Many ideas for wind farms on land have been struck down by concerned residents, fearful (rightly so) of the loudness and vibrations caused by the spinning of the rotors. In addition, many consider the towering windmills a blight upon an otherwise beautiful landscape.
Many have heard of the concept of off-shore wind farms and their potential. However, I would venture to say that few actually know how these wind farms work. "Conical towers are typically anchored to the seabed, rising above the ocean, where a nacelle on top houses a generator spun by helicopter-like rotors." A nacelle is a streamlined enclosure. The act of these rotors spinning creates electricity, which is "then brought ashore through underwater cables to land-based substations for distribution."
The Atlantic City project is competing against a similar off-shore wind project in Massachusetts, "where U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week announced the approval of a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound." However, this project has been under review for nine years, and has been and will continue to be threatened by lawsuits.
Four sites off the New Jersey coast are being studied and considered for possible wind farms. Of these four, three are in federal waters as far as 20 miles from shore and a fourth (the focus of the previously mentioned buoy research) is located much closer to the coast in state waters. Government officials are very high on the prospect of offshore wind energy. "Officials say that offshore wind energy could supply 3,000 megawatts — far more than a nuclear power plant — while helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in the next decade."
The state began investigating the possibility of offshore wind energy generation last year when "the state board of public utilities gave development rights, and $4 million in rebates, to three off-shore wind companies to build test towers. The companies were granted interim licenses for four proposed sites of Jersey's shore." These three companies are: NRG Bluewater Wind of Princeton, Garden State Offshore Energy and Fishermen's Energy of Cape May.
It is naive to think that similar lawsuits to those that have hampered the Massachusetts project cannot hamper the NJ project. However, it may surprise many that the great majority of these lawsuits come from environmental groups concerned with possible negative effects on the environment of the area, such as birds. American environmentally-inclined companies are trying to build renewable-energy infrastructure that will reduce dependence on imported oil, reduce emissions, and most important of all help to stem and possibly reduce negative effects of global warming. When looking at it from that perspective, don't you think that environmentalists should get behind these projects instead of campaigning to stop them?
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