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U.S. Interior Secretary: Wind Resources Could Power Coastal States

windmapWind turbines off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most of the coal-fired power plants in the United States, said the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a recent public hearing in Atlantic City, according to an Associated Press (AP) article.

Salazar said at the public hearing that wind resources along the East Coast can generate 1 million megawatts (MW) of power, although he could not estimate how many windmills might be needed to generate this amount of power, according to the AP report. This is equivalent to 3,000 medium-sized coal-fired power plants, or nearly five times the number of coal plants now operating in the United States, according to the Energy Department.

Salazar is hosting four regional public meetings in April to discuss the future of offshore energy development. He also said in Atlantic City that offshore energy production might not be limited to wind power.

Salazar also told participants at a recent summit meeting of 25X’25 America’s Energy Future that U.S. offshore areas hold enormous potential for wind energy development in all coastal metropolitan centers, and the wind potential off the coasts of the lower 48 states could exceed electricity demand in the U.S.

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has identified more than 1,000 gigawatts (GW) of wind potential off the Atlantic coast, and more than 900 GW of wind potential off the Pacific Coast. There are more than 2,000 MW of offshore wind projects proposed in the United States, according to the Department of Interior.

The total wind potential for the Atlantic region is 1024 gigawatts (GW), and 1 GW of wind power will supply between 225,000 to 300,000 average U.S. homes with power annually, according to U.S. Geological Survey-Minerals Management Service Report.

New Jersey is tripling the amount of wind power it plans to use by 2020 to 3,000 megawatts, or 13 percent of New Jersey’s total energy, according to AP. In Atlantic City alone, the local utilities authority has a wind farm consisting of five windmills that generate 7.5 megawatts, enough energy to power approximately 2,500 homes, according to the article.

The biggest potential wind power is located out in deep waters (see chart above) — 770.9 GW in the Atlantic, 891.4 GW in the Pacific and 67 GW in the Gulf, according to NREL. The laboratory assumes that about 40 percent of wind potential, or 185 GW, could be developed, to power about 53.3 million average U.S. homes.

But some believe Salazar’s estimates are too optimistic.

Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind, pushing to build a wind farm off Cape Cod, Mass., told the Associated Press that it would take hundreds of thousands of windmills with the average wind turbine generating between 2 to 5 megawatts per unit.

Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, told the Associated Press that wind power plants face major roadblocks including problems in efficiently transmitting power from far offshore.

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