Monday, February 26, 2007

Proposed wind farm near Cut Bank may double in size

Proposed wind farm near Cut Bank may double in size
Tribune Staff Writer

Construction of the state's largest commercial wind farm would be part of billions of dollars of investment in wind projects in Montana and Alberta over the next few years, which renewable energy developers say will result from a deal announced Friday.

Somers-based Great Plains Wind & Energy LLC, the developer of a proposed wind farm in Montana, was sold to the much larger Naturener, which is based in Spain, with its North American headquarters in San Francisco.


Naturener's first announcement was its intention to more than double the size of the proposed McCormick Ranch Wind Park from 120 to 300 megawatts. That would make the project in Toole and Glacier counties even bigger than the 135-megawatt wind farm in Judith Gap, the state's sole wind farm producing at a large commercial level.

Great Plains had been developing the McCormick project since 2005, but on a smaller scale.
With the expansion, it would feature some 200 turbines spread across 20,000 acres, which the developer, now Naturener, would lease from landowners. Leases have been secured from all the landowners, said Bill Alexander, one of the original owners of Great Plains.

The $500 million wind farm is proposed for 10 miles west of Shelby between U.S. Highway 2 and the Marias River, in Toole and Glacier counties.

"This is a considerable expansion and we only had to secure a little bit more land to accommodate that expansion because the winds are so good in Montana," Alexander said.

Alexander has joined Naturener as chief development officer for North America. The other owner of Great Plains, Dave Dumon, will manage Montana projects for Naturener. The company's new name is Naturener USA, LLC.

Naturener also announced Friday that it had purchased another wind energy developer, Energy Logics (now Naturener Energy Canada, Inc.), which is in southern Alberta.

Combined, the Alberta and Montana companies were planning 1,800 megawatts of wind power. And both had purchased capacity on a proposed power line between Great Falls and Lethbridge that will ship wind-generated electricity to customers in Montana and Alberta. Naturener now owns that capacity. The company also says it plans to invest $3 billion in developing the full 1,800 megawatts by 2012.

Naturener is owned by a Belgian industrial group, a savings bank based in Spain and a private New York investor, according to the company.

With the purchase of Great Plains and Energy Logics, it's now entered the North American wind energy market. It's already developed hydroelectric, solar and wind energy in Spain.

Naturener has enough investment capital to tackle large projects that Great Plains couldn't handle, said Alexander, who declined to disclose terms of the deal. "The sale was a really beneficial move for us," he said.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer said that utility lobbyists typically dismiss wind power as being "fine for hippies living on a mountaintop smoking marijuana."

He called the Naturener plan "true economic development for Eastern Montana." The McCormick project, he added, would increase the state's commercial wind-power production by 200 percent.

Whether that project proceeds will depend on whether the 218-mile electricity transmission line is constructed from Great Falls to Lethbridge. At times, the line will carry 600 megawatts of renewable energy, 300 in each direction, to homes and businesses.

The line, planned by Calgary-based Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., is expected to spawn wind farms along it and the McCormick project is one of them.

Besides Naturener, other companies that own capacity on the line are Invenergy, the owner of the Judith Gap wind farm, and Wind Hunter LLC, which is proposing a 170-megawatt facility in Valley County. Invenergy has said it's considering construction of a large wind farm north of Great Falls.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is expecting to release an environmental impact statement on the merchant transmission line within a few weeks, said Bill Williams, a Montana-Alberta Tie vice president. The Canadian National Energy Board also is expected to render its decision on the project in a few weeks.

The company hopes to break ground on the transmission line by this summer.

"Without that Montana-Alberta line none of (the wind-power projects) will happen," said Shelby Mayor Larry Bonderud, who also serves on the Toole County economic development agency.

Both the city and county have worked closely with Great Plains on the McCormick wind farm and support the acquisition by Naturener, he said. In addition to capital, the larger company brings expertise in renewable energy development to the state, he said.

Local officials envision an entire bank of wind farms from northcentral Montana to the Canadian border, representing billions of dollars in investment. Bonderud said the proposed McCormick wind farm would triple the tax base in Toole County.

"These wind projects have the potential to lower the taxes on every farm, every ranch and every main-street business and every household," he said.

Local officials have negotiated an agreement with the McCormick developers to offset the impact of the large project, which includes payments of several hundred thousand dollars a year to local governments, he said. Landowners will receive lease payments and even more compensation if turbines are put up on their property, he said.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

UK Offshore Wind Farm to Generate 500 MW

February 21, 2007
UK Offshore Wind Farm to Generate 500 MW

Secretary of State Alistair Darling approves first offshore wind farm outside of British territorial waters.
London, England []

Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Limited (GGWOL), a joint venture between Irish wind giant Airtricity and Texas-based Fortune 500 company Fluor, received planning permission on Monday from the British government for the construction of a 500 megawatt (MW) offshore wind farm to be located in the Outer Thames Estuary.

"The significance of this decision, aside from the notable benefits to the UK in terms of clean carbon free generation, is the continuing clear signal from the UK to the rest of the world that this country is open for business for offshore wind and we look forward to more consents in the near future."

-- Maria McCaffery, BWEA, chief executive

The proposed Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm will feature up to 140 wind turbines, located around two sand banks known as the Inner Gabbard and The Galloper, approximately 23 km off the coast of Suffolk.

The project is the third consent to be awarded by UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling, in the government's second phase of offshore wind development, and follows on the heels of two consents granted in December for the 341-turbine London Array project and 100-turbine Thanet project.

"We need more renewable energy as part of the mix of generation of electricity. It cuts emissions while powering homes. We are seeing this industry grow by the day. Only two weeks ago we reached the 2 GW wind energy landmark, it took more than 10 years to get the first GW and less than 20 months to get the second," said Darling. "It is a key part of our approach; we will continue to back it."

In addition, the GGOWL recently received permission to connect the wind farm to the electricity grid via a new substation planned at Sizewell from the Suffolk Coastal District Council. This will be connected to the offshore wind farm via underground and subsea cabling and will link to the existing overhead transmission lines in the area.

"This is a great boon for the United Kingdom. Wind on such scale will bring strong economic and environmental benefits for the UK. When the wind blows free generation replaces generation that costs. Wind reduces risk because the cost of the power offered will be fixed in price and offers price benefits for the consumer. Such large scale offshore wind provides consistent power and will push down the prices for fossil fuels," said Eddie O'Connor, Airtricity CEO. "This price decrease is caused by the diminishment in demand for fossil fuels, something we've seen frequently in Northern Europe.

The east coast of England is a key area for offshore wind projects with approximately 6.5 GW of capacity currently planned out of a total of 10 GW for the whole of the UK. Presently there are two phases of offshore development in the UK -- Round 1 which awarded 17 sites with 30 turbines and Round 2 -- a far greater scope with higher numbers of turbines and at greater distances from shore.

There are currently five offshore wind farms operational in the UK: Scroby Sands, Kentish Flats, North Hoyle, Barrow and Blyth. Ten have received consent (includes the London Array and Thanet in the Thames Estuary) and eight are in the planning stage.

According to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), the Greater Gabbard projects brings the UK's consented offshore portfolio to 2,484 MW -- with an additional 303 MW already operating and 294 MW under construction.

"BWEA is delighted by the next consent in the second phase of the UK's world-leading offshore program. The significance of this decision, aside from the notable benefits to the UK in terms of clean carbon free generation, is the continuing clear signal from the UK to the rest of the world that this country is open for business for offshore wind and we look forward to more consents in the near future," said BWEA Chief Executive Maria McCaffery.

Receipt of planning consent allows the joint venture to progress the project design and to structure the project financing arrangements as well as the power purchase agreements that are required to allow the project to achieve financial close which is scheduled for second half of 2007.

GGOWL is already focusing on pre-construction activities: Fluor has been appointed as Engineering, Procurement and Construction contractor. The procurement process for turbines and other equipment has commenced, with offshore construction planned to commence in 2009.

"We are pleased to have achieved this important milestone and we look forward to working with all involved stakeholders to progress the project to financial close during 2007 so that we can begin the construction works in time to support the government's 2010 renewables target," said Patrick Flaherty, Fluor's Managing Director, referencing the British Government's renewable energy target of generating 10% by 2010 and 20% by 2020.

GE to Supply 300 Wind Turbines for New York State Projects

February 16, 2007

GE to Supply 300 Wind Turbines for New York State Projects
Atlanta, Georgia []
GE Energy will supply 300 of its 1.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbines to Noble Environmental Power, based in Essex, Connecticut, for 2007 and 2008 projects that will increase New York State's wind power capacity by 450 MW.

"New York State has been very aggressive in striving toward energy independence. The state has set a goal to produce 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources, including wind, by the year 2013." -- Victor Abate, GE Energy, VP-renewables

Noble Environmental Power will use the new GE turbines for the second phases of the Bliss Windpark (in western New York) and the Clinton Windpark, in northern New York. Plans call for selling all of the power from the wind projects to the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) for dispatch through the state electricity grid.

"New York State has been very aggressive in striving toward energy independence," said Victor Abate, vice president-renewables for GE Energy. "The state has set a goal to produce 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources, including wind, by the year 2013. More than 60 counties, towns and villages in New York have adopted renewable energy goals."

GE also recently announced that it has surpassed 5,000 installations for its 1.5-MW wind turbine. The company's knowledge base includes the development and/or installation of more than 8,500 wind turbines with a total rated output of 7,600 megawatts.

This comes on the heels of GE Energy Financial Services just announcing its $270 million investment in a 410- MW wind farm portfolio, among its single largest wind investments, with locations in California, Illinois, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

Monday, February 19, 2007

FPL Energy and Texas College to Train Wind Engineers

February 19, 2007
FPL Energy and Texas College to Train Wind Engineers
Juno Beach, Florida []

FPL Energy, LLC, has formed a partnership with Texas State Technical College (TSTC) West Texas to educate and train students in wind turbine technology in an effort to meet the increased demand for highly skilled employees in the wind energy business in Texas -- and throughout the region.

"As the largest owner and operator of wind turbines in Texas and throughout the world, having a well trained workforce is critically important to our future growth and ultimate success."-- Manny Sanchez, FPL Energy, VP Wind Operations

As part of the partnership, FPL Energy will assist TSTC West Texas with its curriculum by offering subject matter experts and faculty adjuncts; allow opportunities for participants to interact with FPL Energy wind experts on and off campus; provide paid internships within FPL Energy wind operations; and work with the college to secure the equipment and other resources necessary for laboratory facilities.

"We are thrilled to be partnering with the Texas State Technical College West Texas on this important educational program," said Manny Sanchez, vice president, Wind Operations for FPL Energy. "As the largest owner and operator of wind turbines in Texas and throughout the world, having a well trained workforce is critically important to our future growth and ultimate success."TSTC West Texas currently offers a two-year degree developed by TSTC faculty in collaboration with program advisory group members of the wind industry including FPL Energy.

TSTC West Texas will identify and recruit candidates for the program, handle all marketing efforts related to the program, provide service learning opportunities in the community and develop curriculum that meets the needs of FPL Energy.FPL Energy, through its subsidiaries, invested nearly $1 billion in Texas wind projects in 2006 and currently has 11 wind farms in operation in the state. With a net capacity of more than 1,600 megawatts. FPL Energy owned wind projects in Texas generated more than 3.6 million megawatt hours of electricity in 2006.

Airtricity Invests $1.5 B to Transmit 4,200 MW of Wind Energy

February 19, 2007
Airtricity Invests $1.5 B to Transmit 4,200 MW of Wind Energy
Dublin, Ireland []
A consortia backed by Airtricity has committed to the construction of a 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission 'loop' in the Texas Panhandle Plains region: The $1.5 billion 'Panhandle Loop' will be a 800-mile 'looped' transmission project bringing 4,200 megawatt (MW) of wind energy to more than one million homes.

"The Panhandle Loop project is like constructing a power station greater than the entire generation for Ireland and building it by 2010," -- Eddie O'Connor, Airtricity, Chief Executive
The proposal for the three interconnected transmission lines extending from three separate loops on the grid has been filed with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) and, once approved, all parties are committed to moving it forward with a goal of project completion as early as late 2010.

The consortia behind the Panhandle Loop include Airtricity, Inc.; Babcock & Brown Renewable Holdings Inc; Celanese, Ltd.; Occidental Energy Ventures Corp.; and Sharyland Utilities, L.P.

"The Panhandle Loop project is like constructing a power station greater than the entire generation for Ireland and building it by 2010," said Airtricity's Chief Executive, Eddie O'Connor.

Airtricity, an integrated utility that generates and supplies green electricity, currently supplies renewable electricity to more than 35,000 commercial customers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is actively developing wind farms onshore and offshore throughout Europe (Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands), the U.S. and Canada, and has wind farms operating across Ireland and in Scotland at Ardrossan.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wind Energy is the World's Fastest Growing Energy Source

February 15, 2007 01:14 PM Eastern Time
Wind Energy is the World's Fastest Growing Energy Source

DUBLIN, Ireland--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Research and Markets ( has announced the addition of Global Wind Power Market Potential to their offering.
Wind is simple air in motion. It is caused by the uneven heating of the earth’s surface by the sun. Since the earth’s surface is made of very different types of land and water, it absorbs the sun’s heat at different rates. Today, wind energy is mainly used to generate electricity. Wind energy is also world's fastest growing energy source and is a clean and renewable source that has been in use for centuries in Europe and more recently in the United States and other nations. Wind turbines, both large and small, produce electricity for utilities and homeowners and remote villages.

Wind energy is a clean energy source as electricity generated by wind turbines does not pollute the air or emit pollutants like other energy sources. This means less smog, less acid rain and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Every 10,000 MW of wind installed can reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 33 MMT annually if it replaces coal-fired generating capacity, or 21 MMT if it replaces generation from average fuel mix.

Many developing countries have little incentive to use wind energy technologies to reduce their emissions, despite the fact that the most rapid growth in CO2 emissions is in the developing world. Two related activities could give both developed and developing countries incentives to develop wind projects. The first is joint implementation, a program under which firms from the developed countries can earn carbon offsets by building clean energy projects in the developing world. Developed nations should endorse and push for joint implementation to move from its current status to full-scale implementation.

The second activity is the World Bank's Global Environmental Facility (GEF), which can cover the incremental cost of developing environmentally benign or beneficial projects in the developing world, such as building a wind project instead of an apparently cheaper coal project. This incentive is particularly important for countries such as China and India, which have tremendous power needs and must build energy capacity quickly at the lowest possible cost.
This report examines global wind power market potential.

Region emerges as a leader in renewable power sources

Region emerges as a leader in renewable power sources
By Sarah Light, staff writerSaturday, February 17, 2007 2:47 PM CST

Last week, the Minnesota state Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation requiring most utility companies to generate at least 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.Electric utilities such as Xcel Energy Inc. would be required to gather 30 percent from those sources by 2020.Renewable energy includes electricity from solar, wind, hydrogen, biomass and hydroelectric sources.If the initiative passes both the House and the governor, it could place Minnesota into the limelight for renewable energy legislation across the nation and make the state a leader in the country for these efforts, said state Sen. Dan Sparks. Twenty-one other states have already passed similar legislation.The legislation gives a timeline for utility companies, stating that by 2012 they should obtain 12 percent of their power from renewable sources, by 2020 obtain 20 percent and then by 2025 obtain 25 percent.For companies such as Xcel — which provides about half of the state’s electricty — this timeline would be higher.
Sparks said when the bill was moving through the Senate, there was discussion as to whether the initiative would be feasible for utility companies and for residents.“Most of the energy companies want to move toward that energy standard, but we just wanted to make sure it was attainable,” Sparks said. “Everyone’s going to say they’re for renewable energy, but we need to look at whether this will be affordable to our local rate payers. We need to look at the whole picture when we’re putting public policy several years into the future.”Because of this, the bill includes a portion that will allow the state’s Public Utilities Commission the ability to modify the timeline if there is a “significant rate impact” on customers. The bill passed the Senate 61-4.Kenric Scheevel, with government relations for Dairyland Power Cooperative — of which Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services is a part —said although it will be difficult to reach the new standard, he is optimistic that utilities will be able to achieve the goal.“Make no doubt about it, that is going to be a challenge for the utilities,” Scheevel said. “I think there will be some bumps in the road, but ultimately we will get there.”Dairyland Power Cooperative, which is headquartered in La Crosse, Wisc., provides wholesale electrical requirements and services for 25 electric distribution cooperatives and 19 municipal utilities throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services is one of those cooperatives.“We have the opportunity to be a leader,” said Tim Thompson, president of Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services. “We already have the biodiesel right here, we have the ethanol right here and now the hydroelectric right here.”
In light of the legislation moving through the state government, Bob Crowell, Midwest development director for Horizon Wind Energy, said he, too is optimistic that the initiative can be reached.“There’s lots of good, windy sites and transmission in Minnesota, as well as some stuff that’s still on the drawing board,” Crowell said.Horizon Wind Energy is a company that develops and operates wind farms throughout the United States.In the spring, it will start construction for the Prairie Star Wind Farm just 15 miles southeast of Austin, which will consist of 61 wind turbines. These turbines have the capacity of generating 362,000 megawatt hours of energy to power about 36,000 Minnesota homes. The project should be complete by the end of the year.“We are very excited about what’s going on in Minnesota,” he said. “We’re very excited about starting construction. It’s a great time to be a part of the wind industry.”He noted that Minnesota’s wind resources are stronger than most of the similar resources in the Midwest.The recent Minnesota legislation came around the same time that President George W. Bush allocated $1 billion to renewable energy into the 2008 fiscal budget.
The 2008 budget request includes $179 million for the Biofuels Initiative, which is organized to help the country reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years. During the 2006 State of the Union address, Bush set a national goal to replace more than 75 percent of the country’s oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.“We’re excited to see all this legislation,” said Exol General Manager Rick Mummert. “America needs to become wiser users of our energy sources.”

GE unit makes one of its largest wind portfolio investment commitments

GE unit makes one of its largest wind portfolio investment commitments GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of General Electric (NYSE: GE), announced today that it has committed to invest in a 410-megawatt wind farm portfolio, among its single largest wind investments

15 Feb 2007 : GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of General Electric (NYSE: GE), announced today that it has committed to invest in a 410-megawatt wind farm portfolio, among its single largest wind investments. GE Energy Financial Services has committed to invest approximately $270 million for 70 percent of the Class A equity, with a subsidiary of Wachovia Corp. (NYSE: WB), providing the balance, in six wind farms in California, Illinois, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, until now wholly owned by affiliates of global investment and advisory firm Babcock & Brown (ASX: BNB). Affiliates of Babcock & Brown will be the manager and will remain as Class B equity co-investors in the portfolio. Additional financial details were not disclosed. GE Energy Financial Services made the announcement in Houston at CERAWeek 2007, Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ annual conference. The wind portfolio consists of: Aragonne Mesa (90 megawatts) in Guadalupe County, New Mexico. Built with Mitsubishi 1000A turbines, Arizona Public Services is the project’s off-taker. Allegheny Ridge I and II, (80 and 70 megawatts respectively), in Pennsylvania’s Cambria and Blair counties. FirstEnergy Solutions, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., has contracted to purchase the output of the two wind farms, which use Gamesa G87 turbines. GSG (80 megawatts), in Illinois’ Lee and LaSalle counties. Using Gamesa G87 turbines, the output will be sold at market prices. Mendota Hills (52 megawatts), in Lee County, Illinois. The wind farm uses Gamesa G52 turbines and will sell output at market prices. Buena Vista (38 megawatts), in the Altamont Pass area of Northern California. The output is contracted to PG&E Corporation and uses Mitsubishi 1000A turbines. All the wind farms have either been completed or will be completed by the end of April, except Allegheny Ridge II, expected to be finished by December. “This transaction continues the expansion of the geographic footprint and technology mix of our wind holdings,” said Kevin Walsh, Managing Director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services, who spoke today at CERAWeek 2007. “In addition, the portfolio helps the states of Arizona, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania meet their renewable energy targets, and reinforces GE’s commitment to ecomagination.” Ecomagination is GE’s initiative to help its customers meet their environmental challenges while expanding its own portfolio of cleaner energy products. The six wind farms combined will annually produce electrical energy estimated to be sufficient to power 100,000 homes, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than nearly 700,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, compared with equivalent fossil fuel generation. "This mix of projects is an exciting addition to our rapidly expanding US portfolio. We are excited to see the rapid growth of wind power in the US and are committed to making sure this growth continues. We value our relationship with GE Energy Financial Services and Wachovia and look forward to working with them on future wind deals," said Hunter Armistead, head of Babcock & Brown’s North American wind energy group. With this transaction, GE Energy Financial Services has invested or committed to invest equity in 25 wind farms, bringing the total capacity of its wind equity holdings globally to more than 1,300 megawatts. About GE Energy Financial Services GE Energy Financial Services' 300 experts invest globally with a long-term view, across the capital spectrum and the energy and water industries, to help their customers and GE grow. With $13 billion in assets, GE Energy Financial Services, based in Stamford, Connecticut, invests more than $5 billion annually in two of the world's most capital-intensive industries, energy and water. In renewable energy, GE Energy Financial Services has developed a strong record investing in wind, solar, biomass, hydro and geothermal power, and is growing its portfolio of more than $1.75 billion in renewable energy assets. More information: About GE GE (NYSE: GE) is Imagination at Work -- a diversified technology, media and financial services company focused on solving some of the world's toughest problems. With products and services ranging from aircraft engines, power generation, water processing and security technology to medical imaging, business and consumer financing, media content and advanced materials, GE serves customers in more than 100 countries and employs more than 300,000 people worldwide. For more information, visit About Babcock & Brown Babcock & Brown is a global investment and advisory firm with longstanding capabilities in structured finance and the creation, syndication and management of asset and cash flow-based investments. Babcock & Brown was founded in 1977 and is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Babcock & Brown operates from 26 offices across Australia, North America, Europe, Asia, United Arab Emirates and Africa and has in excess of 1000 employees worldwide. Babcock & Brown has five operating divisions including real estate, infrastructure and project finance, operating leasing, structured finance and corporate finance. The company has established a funds management platform across the operating divisions that has resulted in the creation of a number of focused investment vehicles in areas including real estate, renewable energy and infrastructure. Babcock & Brown has nearly 20 years of experience in the wind energy sector, having arranged financing for over 3,000 MW of wind energy companies and projects with an estimated value over US$3 billion. Babcock & Brown's roles have included acting as an adviser/arranger of limited recourse project financing, arranging equity placements, lease adviser, project developer, principal equity investor and fund manager for wind energy projects in North America, Australia and Europe. Babcock & Brown has developed specialist local expertise and experience in the wind energy sector in each of these regions. More information is available at

Study: Offshore Wind Farms Could Power Entire East Coast

Study: Offshore Wind Farms Could Power Entire East Coast
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
By Andrea Thompson

Wind power could supply all the energy needs of much of the East Coast and then some, if a phalanx of wind turbines running from Massachusetts to North Carolina were installed offshore, a new study concludes.
Though local residents often object to wind farms intruding on their landscape and views, wind power has become an increasingly attractive option for generating clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions for several countries.
Offshore wind farms in Denmark and the United Kingdom are now used to generate electricity, with Denmark drawing 20 percent of its energy from wind power.
• Click here to visit's Energy Center.
• Click here to visit's Natural Science Center.
But determining just how much ocean area is available and how much energy a wind farm can actually produce is tricky and had yet to be done for this area of the Atlantic.
"In doing our surveys and watching the public debate, we saw that no one had solid empirical data on the actual size of the offshore wind resource, and we felt this was important for policy decisions," said study author Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware.
An ideal location
Oceans make ideal locations for wind turbines because they "are particularly windy all over," Kempton said.
The ocean's surface isn't littered with hills, trees and houses as the land is, so winds over the water are faster because there is less friction to slow them down.
The wind turns the three blades of the turbine, and their rotation is converted into electricity by a generator.
The Middle Atlantic Bight, a region of the Atlantic Ocean that runs from Cape Cod, Mass., to Cape Hatteras, N.C., turns out to be an ideal setting for wind turbines because it is a large area of shallow water, Kempton said
Locating a large body of shallow water is important because with current technology, turbines can only be built out to a depth of 20 to 30 meters (close to 20 or 30 yards). Otherwise, it is too difficult to erect the metal pole that the turbine sits atop.
However, experimental turbines have been built out to a depth of 50 meters off the coast of Scotland. These types of turbines may be in commercial use soon, Kempton said, and with reasonable additional costs, he forsees building them out to a depth of 100 meters.
"Anything deeper than that, and you're talking science fiction," Kempton told LiveScience.
Surpassing energy needs
To estimate how much area would actually be available to place wind farms on in the Middle Atlantic Bight, the researchers had to exclude areas used for bird flyways, toxic waste sites and shipping lanes.
"We don't want to compete with that use," Kempton said.
The researchers also had to consider that wind turbines must be spaced half a mile apart, otherwise they create turbulence that interferes with other turbines.
Even with all those allowances, the energy needs of most of the East Coast could be met, or even surpassed, with the installation of over 160,000 turbines, according to Kempton's findings.
But to achieve that energy, the turbines would have to be built out to a depth of 100 meters, according to the research published in the Jan. 24 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The reduced use of fossil fuels would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the area by 57 percent, even in New England, one of the world's most highly polluting areas, according to the study.
"The fact that we could get such huge reductions there gives me hope for other places," Kempton said.
Mixed opinions
Proposals for offshore wind farms have met with mixed opinions: residents of Cape Cod are vocal in their opposition to such a project, but those in nearby Delaware support building the turbines.
Common complaints against wind turbines are their unsightliness, their potential to destroy habitats and their potential effect on local weather patterns.
There would be "a realistic set of pluses and minuses — there would be some bird kills," Kempton said.
But he pointed out that the pylons actually create habitat for fish, the turbines would not be visible from shore and local weather effects would be negligible.
Even with local opposition, Kempton thinks it is likely that one of these projects will be built.
"I think it's a 100 percent probability," Kempton said.
And the whole area doesn't have to be built at once.
"It definitely could be done on a state-by-state basis," he said.