Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oil Rigs to Wind Farms

The Gulf Coast is littered with the carcasses of unused oil equipment. Now those structures are being repurposed to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States...

Wind energy is the most promising carbon-free, nonnuclear alternative to fossil-fueled grid power. But regions with enough space and breeze for land-based wind farms—mostly in the Midwest—are far from coastal population centers; the cost of running transmission lines between generators and users is a major disincentive. That’s why wind-power entrepreneurs have set their sights on coastal waters. In the Atlantic, off Cape Cod, the 450-megawatt Cape Wind installation has been in the works for five years. But that project is mired in NIMBY activism and has yet to pass its initial federally mandated environmental review. (Ironically, a cabal of local property owners, including green-energy backers like US senator Edward Kennedy, are leading the fight against Cape Wind for fear it will mar the environment off Martha’s Vineyard.) Another project proposed for New York’s Long Island Sound has run into similar difficulties, and plans for wind farms off California have foundered on the expense of sinking pilings in the deeper Pacific coast waters.

Leave it to a couple of Gulf Coast good ol’ boys to take up the slack.