Friday, September 24, 2010

Britain Opens Up World's Largest Offshore Wind Power Facility

The video only begins to convey the size and scope of the Thanet wind farm project, and it's just a fraction of the size of another proposed British project that would hope to produce a gigawatt of power (nearly four times the size of the current project).

The Thanet project is hoped to produce 300MW of power, and cost roughly $1 billion. There are critics of the project complaining that you can see the wind turbines from the shore, even though the closest turbines are more than seven miles offshore.
Each turbine is nearly as tall as a 40-story building and the blades are at least 65 feet above the water for clearance with vessels. No turbine is closer than 1,600 feet to another and the entire "farm" covers an area of 22 square miles.

Up to 341 turbines will be installed over the next four years.

With Thursday's opening, which tops a 91-turbine farm off Denmark, Britain now has more offshore wind capacity than the rest of the world combined.

"We are in a unique position to become a world leader in this industry," British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said in a statement before he attended the grand opening. "We are an island nation and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum."

Britain now gets three percent of its electricity from renewables but aims to get 15 percent by 2020. As part of that, the government this year awarded licenses to wind farm developers in a program that could deliver up to 32 gigawatts of generation capacity and require investment of more than $117 billion.

Critics of the $1.4 billion wind farm include some nearby residents who object to the sight of the giant towers, some visible from shore. The farm starts about seven miles from shore.

Environmental groups tend to back wind power as long as projects are not in areas of significant bird flight paths.

The new wind farm met that standard. It's an "important stride forward," said Craig Bennett of the British chapter of Friends of the Earth.
The cost rises exponentially the further offshore these turbines are sited - and that affects the economic viability of these projects. NIMBY is dominating the argument - and that means higher costs for all.

The complaints about offshore wind farms extend to opposition for siting them in the US as well. New Jersey has more than 100 miles of coastline and there's usually a steady wind, which means it's optimal for wind power generation. Yet, local opposition to siting the wind farms too close to shore has meant that plans to build wind power farms have to take the opposition into account. It also drives up the costs, despite the fact that the wind power facilities are not the blight that opponents make it out to be.

Note too that the British project highlights the environmentalist complaints and obstacles to the New Jersey project. Proposed New Jersey offshore wind farms are all along the Northeast flyway - a major flyway for migratory birds.

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