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Suffolk Closeup

Statoil-Boosts-UK-Offshore-Wind-Presenceby Karl Grossman

Will 2017 be a big year for offshore wind off Long Island?
Last month, five wind erected by Deepwater Wind in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean east of Long Island, near Block Island, started spinning and generating 30 megawatts of electricity. It became the first offshore wind farm for the United States. Moreover, its builder, Deepwater Wind, headquartered in Rhode Island, is planning additional and larger offshore wind farms, both east of Long Island and south of New York City.
And last month, Statoil Wind won a $42 million federal lease to put up 194 wind turbines off Jones Beach accounced the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Outgoing U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell declared that the auction won by the Norway-based firm “underscores the growing market demand for renewable energy among our coastal communities.”
Offshore wind has been taking off especially in Europe. The U.S. is only now getting involved. “For European Wind Industry, Offshore Projects Are Booming” was the headline of an October article on the Yale University website “environment 360.”
“The importance of wind farms at sea has grown dramatically in the past several years,” it reported. “Until 2011, between 5 and 10 percent of newly installed wind energy capacity in Europe was offshore. Last year, almost every third new wind turbine went offshore… More than 3,300 grid-connected turbines now exist in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Irish Sea… This is in stark contrast to the U.S. and Asia, where offshore wind use is just getting started.”
For Long Island, a 120 mile-long chunk of land jutting out into the Atlantic, harvesting the winds that blow offshore is especially ideal
As The New York Times declared in an editorial—“The Unlimited Power of Ocean Winds” that ran in August and heralded the five-turbine farm east of us: “Putting windmills offshore, where the wind is stronger and more reliable than on land, could theoretically provide about four times the amount of electricity as is generated on the American grid today from all sources. This resource could be readily accessible to areas on the coasts, where 53 percent of Americans live.”
“There are 22 other offshore wind projects in various stages of development across the country,” it reported. “Many of them are in the Northeast, including a proposal before the Long Island Power Authority for a wind farm 30 miles off the coast of Montauk that would supply electricity to the Hamptons.” (This is one of Deepwater Wind’s proposed projects—and Deepwater Wind is also including energy storage as an important component.)
The Times concluded: “A few decades ago, the idea of harnessing the power of ocean winds seemed entirely impractical. In the next 10 years, these offshore farms should become commonplace.”
But will this happen under the new Trump administration? “Awful” is the word reportedly used by President-elect Donald Trump about Scottish wind farms, according to a BBC dispatch in November. He was said to have used the term at a meeting with British politician Nigel Farage, a leader in advocating the exit of the U.K. from the European Union.
A New York Times article on that meeting said: “When President-elect Trump met with Farage in recent days, he encouraged Mr. Farage and his entourage to oppose the kind of offshore wind farms that Mr. Trump believes will mar the pristine view from one of his two Scottish golf courses.”
This Times piece added: “Trump did not say he hated wind farms as a concept; he just did not like them spoiling the views.”
There has, indeed, been concern raised about the visual impacts of offshore wind turbines. This ended an earlier plan for turbines placed to be placed in the Nantucket Sound, near Marths’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts, and it badly hurt an initial proposal for turbines going up off Jones Beach. But a major technological innovation by Deepwater Wind has led to wind turbines being able to be placed beyond the horizon, out of sight.
There are also concerns by commercial fishing interests about offshore turbines impacting on their operations—and this needs to be worked out. Further, noted Long Island naturalist Larry Penny opposes them as constituting an “industrialization” of the oceans. This, too, is a criticism that needs to be taken seriously.
But my view is that on balance offshore wind is an excellent source of power just waiting to be utilized—it’s there “blowin’ in the wind” literally—and with requisite environmental sensitivity and concern would provide clean, safe, green energy.

Filed in: News, Suffolk Closeup

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