Off-Shore Wind Farms

Offshore_wind_farm Massachusetts has finally approved the country's first off-shore wind farm near Cape Cod.

Wind farms are big windmills in the ocean that provide clean energy. Surprisingly, this has been a big fight, because some are concerned these wind farms are an eye sore.

Supporters say the $1 billion Cape Wind project would provide a clean,
renewable source of energy that could meet up to 75 percent of the
power needs on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. They also say
it would provide hundreds of construction jobs, decrease the region’s
reliance on fossil fuels and benefit the environment by lowering
emissions of greenhouse gases.

Opponents say it would be an industrial blot in an area of pristine
beauty and change the region’s historic character. They also warn that
the costs to consumers are likely to be double or triple the costs for
conventional power. Improvements to the region’s electrical grid and
transmission lines could cost $10 billion.


18 thoughts on “Off-Shore Wind Farms

  1. “Surprisingly, this has been a big fight, because some are concerned these wind farms are an eye sore.”
    A single line of them doesn’t look that bad, but multiple rows of dozens look like heck. I found a sample photo from Palm Springs that demonstrates this, but am not tech savvy enough to deal with the enormous URL.
    On a somewhat different topic, I was just googling to see what it’s like to live near a wind farm on land. It’s apparently very, very loud and a property-value killer.
    Here are some letters from neighbors of wind farms in the US:
    I didn’t read to the end, but it sounds like living near the land-based wind turbines is a lot like living next to an airport. I would be very concerned about putting wind farms near inhabited areas because of what I’ve read earlier on the relationship between noise and stress and noise and children’s school performance.
    This may not have much to do with sea-based wind turbines, but there are well-founded concerns with this “clean energy.”

  2. The eye-sore objection to wind farms makes me think, admittedly without any specific support, about well-off people living in places with hugely subsidzed government rail systems wanting me to pay more for gas to save the Earth since they aren’t willing to accept anything less than a perfect sea scape.

  3. I was interested to hear my dad talk about how his parish, and most other local churches and schools with the necessary land, have been getting low interest loans to dig-up their parking lots and playgrounds, bury pipe, and buy giant heat pumps hooked to the constant fifty-something degree underground temperature. He didn’t know what the loan payments were, but he said the savings were coming close to $100,000 per year for the parish (school, offices, social hall, and church).

  4. There are big windmills on the ridge of West Maui Mountain. They used to irritate me a lot at first, but I’ve gotten use to them over repeated visits. They don’t have any noise issues, ’cause nobody live next to them. Maui is pretty limited in power sources: shipped oil, baggasse (the leftover stuff from sugar cane production), solar, wind. I suspect that they need to use all those sources to keep up with energy needs.
    The real problem with windmills, though, is that windmill power-productivity has been very hard to predict. The fuel is unpredictable (i.e. wind, on the whole, even in places where it’s pretty predictable) so you have to have back up power sources.
    But, even with those caveats, I’m looking forward to seeing how this wind farm plays out, especially in light of the ugly news coming from the British Petroleum oil spill.
    I usually don’t believe in moderate Republicans (kind of like unicorns), but Crist suggesting that he’s re-thinking his support of off shore oil drilling makes me think that they might not be impossible.

  5. This is a huge issue for me because I live on the bluffs on Lake Ontario and there are plans for a windfarm very close to shore directly in front of my house. Technically my front yard, not my back yard. 🙂
    At first I was pretty pro-wind power but as I’ve looked into it I’ve gone the other way. Wind farms need to be backed by more conventional power sources and building (and rebuilding) them is environmentally disruptive and has its own environmental costs. In our case evidence is just not there that the winds in this area (2-7.5 km off shore) will actually produce anything like a lot of energy. We have an anemometer platform there now measuring, and hopefully that will give the gov’t some guidance.
    Basically I’ve come to see our particular windfarm as government trying to look green and jump on the latest bandwagon without adequately examining health costs and actual ROI, although I still have some hope that they will.

  6. Unicorns live in the U.K. and vote Lib-Dem. Harry Potter books boosted their self-confidence, leading to a foal-boom the effects of which are just recently appearing in the polling data.
    What I have trouble believing is that wealthy environmentalists’ plans for how to make a green society are any less self-interested than my plan to buy 20 acres in the mountains and put in a yurt.

  7. MH: Heat pumps are pretty neat, I think, although apparently not as sexy (?) as wind-farms. Or maybe they’re not scalable? I’ve not heard about major projects heading in that direction.
    Of course, there’s potential for problems there too, which need study. Cornell University started getting cooling from the bottom of Cayuga Lake, although the discharge of slightly hotter water was a matter of great debate as regards the environmental impact. Eventually people were reassured (or the University bulldozed through–I’ve heard both versions) and the project was put in.
    (My dad likes to talk about how you need to strip mine in order to get the materials to make a Prius, just to emphasis that there’s no green silver bullet.)

  8. I don’t know how big you can get with a heat pump. The big gain is when you run the coils underground instead of having them in the air as you might see in a typical single-house set-up. For that, you need open land, and I think that is the limiting factor. You can drill straight down, but appearently that is costly and very expensive to fix if it breaks.

  9. The nice thing about Cape Wind is you can also attach a generator to Teddy Kennedy’s coffin and the spinning will get you some extra power. ‘You don’t understand. That’s where I sail.’
    Naturally, this won’t work for just ANY wind installation.

  10. I live in MA and have been a supporter of Cape Wind for a long time. Having just been to France, our family picnicked right next to a large wind farm, and it was really pleasant. No loud noises and really very cool looking in my opinion. Our town is also putting in two wind turbines, and after having read a lot of research on the issue, I’m convinced that the harms that opponents claim stem from turbines (such as wind turbine syndrome) stem mostly from fear of the unknown.

  11. I don’t understand why they have put the wind farms so close to shore. Couldn’t they put them right in the middle of the ocean where they wouldn’t bother anyone’s view.

  12. Why not farther out? I assume the problems of waves, maintenance access, bringing the power back to shore. I am guessing that the wind forces are stronger at the point where water meets land (because of temperature variance). I don’t actually know, though.
    We’ve seen quite a few wind-turbin farms while driving cross-country over the years, and I find them far more attractive than the gas- and coal-powered power plants we also see. (Not that the glow of a power plant doesn’t have its own industrial beauty.) I agree with JennG that wind farms have to be sited properly, and not used purely for their bandwagon appeal, but it’s hard for me to object to wind power on ugliness or noise grounds, when I consider the pollutant costs borne by the folks who live near our current crop of power plants.
    If we could upgrade our grip fast enough, we could put most of our wind plants out in the Dakotas, where people are leaving anyway. Of course, then we run into problems for migratory birds.
    Nuclear power plants create nuclear waste. Solar power plants have their own wildlife and aesthetic costs. I don’t think even the most rabid environmentalist or climate-change supporter is arguing that there’s a magic bullet. We have to pick our poisons.

  13. Yeah true Jody – to be fair, I also live within sight (on a clear day) of a nuclear power plant and we have to keep potassium iodide tablets in case of accident (which reminds me I should recalibrate my son’s dose) so it’s not that I completely object to power generation in the vicinity. (I do wish they could locate the wind farm in FRONT of the nuclear plant.)
    It’s more that in this particular case I really think the project is for show. Not a test case. Show.
    For the distance to shore it is definitely about the bed – it happens that off our shore there’s solid rock that’s not too deep, hence the location of the farm…but that’s the same issue that makes it a bit too close for my personal comfort without knowing what the sound levels, etc. will be.
    I’ve been up to a friend’s farm next to a windmill farm and it was noisy that day. It wasn’t the motor so much as the sound of the wind against the blades, but rhythmic like ‘fwap fwap fwap fwap.’ I never heard the gears for a direction switch.
    I’m not sure 2 km offshore will be as noisy, but sound does carry over water. I’d just like it tested, not rushed.

  14. “I assume that you can only go so far out to sea without getting into water do deep that the costs are too high.”
    Folks are already pointing out that in a relatively uncrowded country like ours, siting on land might make more sense than siting in the ocean. In the middle of the ocean would certainly wouldn’t get a good run compared to the Dakotas (whose flaw is that they’re too far away from population centers). I think part of the goal of offshore siting is to put the powerplant near the user (Nantucket, in this case). The same is true for the Maui wind mills.
    I agree with Jody that bringing up the environmental costs of wind (or solar, or nuclear, or any other energy source) is only relevant in comparison to other sources. And, the comparison will be apples and oranges, ’cause how do you compare the relative risk of the contamination next to the small scale fossil fuel plants being built in the south to the wind farms in the Dakotas. How do you compare noise and bird mangling to soot to ucky chemicals and CO2 and radiation?
    Once, long ago, in a “contemporary issues” class (but, remember, long ago, so it was contemporary in a different age), I did a report on nuclear energy, touting the wonders of fission (and the dream of controlled fusion). At the time, hydro was the “clean” energy of choice. I remember favorably comparing the risks of nuclear to the environmental damage of hydro. Now, of course, hydro is less in favor, and we’re talking wind and solar, and heat pumps, and geothermal, and tides, . . . .
    The fact is that every power source is going to have consequences. So, as with investments, I advocate diversity, with diversified risk and damage and include all power sources in my list of acceptable ways to meet energy needs.

  15. I did a report on nuclear energy, touting the wonders of fission (and the dream of controlled fusion).
    At a high school speech tournament, I gave a whole speech on nuclear power plants. It was very informative, I think, but I did very poorly with the judges. They said, “I know Dan Rather gets this wrong also, but it isn’t nuc-u-lar energy.”

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