Avalon, New Jersey is a southern beach community known as "cooler by a mile," because a quirk of geography makes it a mile further out to sea than its neighbors on the Jersey Cape. If you were to stand on its sandy shore, where in the 1600s whalers put out to sea, and look due east you'd be likely to see a sailboat or two, maybe some distant commercial shipping, but nothing that's likely to send tourists elsewhere. And that's just the way this resort community likes it.
An artist's conception of one of Garden State Offshore Energy's latticework towers. (GSOE graphic)
By 2013, there may be a utility-sized, 96-turbine wind farm 20 miles off the Avalon coast, but with any luck the view from shore won't have changed. The project proposed by Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) Renewable Energy, a division of the state's largest utility, and Deepwater Wind will be so far out to sea (the nearest turbine is expected to be 16.2 statute miles from shore) that it is likely to be dimly visibly only on exceptionally clear days.
Wind projects are moving further out to sea, which provides several benefits to getting them approved, funded and producing energy. According to Paul Rosengren, a PSEG spokesperson, "One of the main advantages is that the project will be out of the sight of shore, so any potential impact to property values or tourism is alleviated. There's been some concern locally about having to look at a bunch of windmills -- this will be barely visible on the horizon on a very clear day. We expect the wind quality will be of higher quality that far from shore, and we're also taking the wind turbines away from the migratory patterns of birds."
Another advantage is easy replication. Rosengren says the far-offshore location is well away from shipping lanes, which will make it easier for New Jersey to achieve its recently announced and very ambitious goal of 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity. The Avalon project, operating as Garden State Offshore Energy (GSOE), will produce 350 megawatts.
At 15 miles or more, you're unlikely to see the turbines from shore. (GSOE image)
According to Frank Maisano, a spokesman for Deepwater Wind, the project abandons the "monopole" of traditional offshore projects in favor of a latticework structure similar to that of oil and natural gas platforms.
There's no question that offshore wind is renewable energy on a big scale. GSOE would generate 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours a year, enough to power 110,000 households. Over its estimated 25-year life, it would eliminate 11 million tons of carbon dioxide, 349 pounds of mercury, 29,893 tons of sulfur dioxide and 15,417 tons of nitrogen oxide. They boast that it's the equivalent of:
Deepwater Wind estimates that the offshore resources of the Northeast, from Massachusetts to North Carolina, could produce a stunning 330 gigawatts of electricity, enough for 40 million homes -- virtually the whole region.
The big question will be whether GSOE and plans like it can get construction funding in this difficult economy. Although Rosengren points out that the completed farm will have a number of revenue streams, including long-term electricity contracts, federal tax benefits (likely to be given long-term life by the Obama Administration after a recent one-year extension as part of the federal bailout package) and the sale of renewable energy credits, upfront money is a problem.
GSOE is optimistic. It will take at least 18 months for wind studies and other regulatory hurdles to be gotten over. "The investment climate is difficult now, but we hope that by then financing will be available," Rosengren said.
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