US Researchers Look To Offshore Wind Farms
March 22, 2012

US Researchers Look To Offshore Wind Farms

Two extensive, parallel studies were released this week on the impact and advantageous planning of offshore wind power facilities on the Northeast United States coast. Wind is consistent in near-shore environments, driven by frequent shifts in temperatures between land and water.

Offshore wind farms could play a large role in meeting future power needs without adding to pollution issues inherent to fossil fuel and nuclear power plants.

The Northeast Coast in particular has a combination of heavy power loads, extremely windy coastal regions, and shallow seas that allow the construction of bottom mounted wind turbines up to 100 miles off the shoreline in select sites.

Stanford University engineers developed and used a sophisticated weather model to recommend optimal placement of four interconnected wind farms off the coast of the Eastern United States, a region that accounts for 34 percent of the nation´s electrical demand and 35 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

Of twelve tested locations the team selected four that would provide a combination of maximum power production and ease of integration. These four sites could produce 2000 MW of power and could be linked together in an offshore grid to balance power production across differing wind zones.

The optimized grid was located in the waters from Long Island, New York to Georges Bank 100 miles off the Massachusetts coast. “The farms had to be in waters less than 50 meters deep to allow use of bottom-mounted turbines and near urban load centers like Boston and New York, and, we wanted to smooth power output, ease hourly ramp rates and reduce hours of zero power.”

Among its findings, the Stanford model recommended a farm in Nantucket Sound, precisely where the controversial Cape Wind farm has been proposed. The model places the second two sites on Georges Bank, a shallow region located a hundred miles offshore, far from view in an area once known for commercial cod fishing.  The fourth site is off central Long Island.

A second study specific to the waters of New York State was released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Program. The study includes the compiling of environmental and meteorological data to aid in the most effective planning of future offshore wind projects.

The data was analyzed to create maps that can be used by industry, federal and state mangers. The maps will be particularly helpful to the offshore renewable energy development interests.