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Updated on July 6, 2010

The Blight of Offshore Wind

On June 10, 2010 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that ten states (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium (AOWEC). One imagines that this new consortium will function under trhe auspices of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, BOEMRE (pronounced BUMMER). So now we are told by the Secretary of DOI that AOWEC will operate under BUMMER. Alphabet soup at its tastiest. Changing MMS's name to BOEMRE is just an exercising in putting lipstick on a pig.

Slick (my nickname for Salazar due to the BP crisis in the Gulf which happened because he allowed it) has decided that the entire Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf should be addorned with steel towers supporting wind turbines producing electricity. He feels certain that this will be a solution to our dependence on foreign oil and that it will save our environment from complete destruction. And, he even declares that wind energy will stabilize our energy supply and save us money. It is amazing how much he knows about energy and particularly offshore energy. After all, he is a rancher from Colorado. But then again, he is Slick.

As we now know the U.S. Coast Guard will pay experts to lie about whether such wind farms will cause problems for marine radar. The FAA will do the same, admitting they do know how to fix the problems to be encountered by aircraft radar but saying that they approve of the project anyway, as they have done in the Cape Wind case. So much for safety in air traffic. And, commercial fishermen and other long-time users of historically unrestricted waters will just have to adjust their lives to the reality of offshore wind farms.

As for birds, fish, whales and other critters....we can forget about decades of environmental legislation and enforcement. These will all be sacrificed on the altar of clean, cheap energy. Just wait until clever lawyers start arguing as they appeal harsh decisions by federal regulators concerning just about anything that since the rules were bent and broken for Cape Wind they should be for their clients as well. Tough to argue with consistency, Slick.

The scary part of all this is that Slick appears to be serious and he has the full support of the White house. The U. S. Department of Energy says there are 54 gigawatts of offshore energy to be had just on the Atlantic coast. Cape Wind plans to build 468 megawatts, so there will be 116 Cape Wind projects, or the equivalent, springing up along the Atlantic Outer Continental shelf...116 projects the size of Cape Wind. This translates into roughly 3000 square miles of our coastal waters covered by steel forests.

But, the 54 gigawatts is a deception, and the Department of Energy and BUMMER know it is. responsible energy experts have been saying for years that wind energy is not efficient or cost effective. Cape Wind's advertised capacity of 468 megawatts is also a fiction, but few of its supporters ever take the time to adjust this figure to reality. Taken on its face value the government's claim about 54 gigawatts of offshore energy seems like something we should run to grab. In reality, however, that 54 gigawatts is probably 16.2 gigawatts or less, perhaps as low as 13.5 gigawatts. But, we will still lose 3000 square miles of our coastal waters to commercial wind farms.

No one in nthe world operates offshore wind facilities at more than 30%, and those who do hit 30% do so only occasionally. 25% actual capacity (energy produced) is more the (high) norm. 25% of 54 gigawatts is 13.5 gigawatts. And, if overall capacity falls to the levels actually being experienced in some European offshore wind farms currently, 20%, the actual yield from those 3000 square miles would be a mere 10.8 gigawatts. For senior federal officials to be so stupid or dishonest is simply not to be tolerated any longer.

Slick assures us that this plan will be good for the nation and the environment. Asked about the permitting process for BP's Deepwater Horizon, after the blow-out, he said, "I thought everything was in its proper place." Then he fired Liz Birnbaum, the head of MMS, who probably knew nothing about the inside dealing that had been an MMS trademark for years. The man's hat must be too tight.

In the next two posts we will put Slick's plan in proper perspective. Inconvenient things...facts.


Copyright 2010 By Peter A. Kenney


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