When (And Why) Wind Got So Popular

The power of wind has been known for ages but it is only in recent decades that the idea of harnessing the ocean’s perpetual breeze has emerged as a leading social issue. The following timeline includes some of the most critical movements in offshore wind turbines made in the last 30 years.

1976 – WTG Energy Systems establishes a prototype 200 kW wind turbine generator on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. It’s the most action the island, self-described as “a place to do a whole lot of nothing,” has seen in decades.

According to the 2004 article “Which Way Will the Wind Blow?” published in Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s magazine Oceanus, similar projects were undertaken on various other islands, including Nantucket, throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

1991 – The Vindeby wind farm opens in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Denmark as the first of six major Danish offshore wind farms (the latest of which was completed in 2003). Vindeby produces 20% more electricity than comparable land sites, according to the non-profit organization Danish Wind Industry Association (DIWA).

The company that built the Videby wind farm has been known as SEAS NVE since 2005 and claims to be Denmark’s “largest consumer-owned energy company.” The concept “consumer-owned” describes a growing trend in Denmark where citizens are encouraged through a tax exemption to produce their own electricity either by themselves or, as is most often the case, by buying shares in wind turbine cooperatives.

1994National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC) forms in response to the growing debate about wind power. This U.S. collaborative includes representatives from GE Wind Energy LLC, the U.S. Department of Energy, the American Bird Conservancy, and the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy. I list these four organizations specifically as they directly correlate with leading groups involved with offshore wind turbines – electric companies, the government, environmentalists/animal rights activists, and Native American tribe members.

June 19, 1999NASA’s Quick Scatterometer (QuickSCAT) launches. This technology tracks the speed, direction, and power of winds near the ocean surface. In addition, the added microwave radar instrument SeaWinds collects information that helps predict storms and improve weather forecasts. Although the mission originally launched to meet scientific aims, QuickSCAT has proven to be a vital tool in identifying the optimal locations for offshore wind turbines.

2002 – Plans for America’s first offshore wind farm announced. Dubbed “Cape Wind,” the proposed 130 wind turbines would produce up to 420 megawatts of energy, providing three quarters of the electricity used by Massachusetts’s Cape Cod and surrounding islands.

On a side note, Cape Wind also made the news in April 2009 concerning a controversial Federal Aviation Administration appointment by U.S. President Barack Obama.

February 5 and 6, 2008 – Members of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program assemble for the program’s annual Strategic Planning Meeting. The focus: the 2008 DOE report “20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply,” which addresses the “technical feasibility” of accomplishing the goal that appears in the title. The report reaches five main conclusions.

October 19, 2008Principle Power CEO Alla Weinstein meets with Garibaldi, Oregon, fishermen about her company’s proposed plan to build wind turbines offshore. The Oregonian runs an accompanying article by Gail Hill, “Company floats idea of Pacific Ocean wind power.”

November 24, 2008 – Principle Power announces an agreement with Tillamook People’s Utility District to develop a 150-megawatt wind-power plant off the coast of Tillamook County, Oregon.

The development of such an offshore power plant would not only be the first on the West Coast but also the first of its kind as Principle Power plans to use its personal WindFloat technology. WindFloat’s design aims to keep a 400-foot wind turbine and its various other parts above water. Such adaptations would be necessary since the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast gets much deeper much more quickly than in other parts of the world where offshore wind turbines have already been established.

April 22, 2009 – While celebrating Earth Day at Trinity Structural Towers Manufacturing Plant in Newton, Iowa, President Obama announces a Department of the Interior program to authorize “the leasing of federal waters for projects to generate electricity from wind as well as from ocean currents and other renewable sources.” In his speech, Mr. Obama specifically mentions wind projects off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts and says “today’s announcement will enable these projects to move forward.”

October 6, 2009 – Duke Energy Corp agrees to fund an offshore wind turbine project in Pamlico Sound, North Carolina. The plan for such a pilot project was initially announced in September 2009.

And if you need just a bit more wind….

http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=2501

This first link goes to the Oceanus magazine article “Which Way Will the Wind Blow?.” Published in 2004 and written by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Research Specialist Porter Hoagland, the article covers both past and current action involving offshore wind farms. In addition, Hoagland provides my research with a scientific viewpoint, calling upon marine scientists and policy experts to address the issues of ocean physics, environmental impact, and marine policy that could all be affected by ocean wind turbines.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is located in Massachusetts and has published Oceanus, the magazine that “explores the oceans in depth,” since 1952. Self-described as the largest non-profit oceanographic institute in the world, WHOI receives funds from government grants, private gifts, and endowment income.

http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/10/unknowns_buffet_ocean_wind.html

My second link takes us to the article that actually got me started on this topic in the first place. The October 2008 Oregonian piece “Company floats idea of Pacific Ocean wind power” introduces the current conflict between Garibaldi, Oregon, fishermen and Principle Power. This article appeared before the November 2008 agreement reached between Principle Power and Tillamook People’s Utility District (see above Timeline). With this in mind, I plan to figure out how the situation now stands and the current feelings of the people of Garibaldi (and similar seaside towns).

http://voices.capewind.org/

A fellow WordPress.com blog, Cape Wind Voices  is the personal blog of Cape Wind and thus features pieces from those who support the project. Such articles, I believe, provide a crucial side of the argument at hand and, hopefully, will lead me to other viewpoints to investigate. For example, the article currently featured on this blog’s website spotlights Cape Cod locals who “stand up for Cape Wind” and cite fighting global warming and creating jobs as two top reasons why the Cape Wind project should move forward.

http://charlotte.bizjournals.com/charlotte/stories/2009/10/05/daily19.html

This part of the offshore wind puzzle is the most recent and, thus, the most currently written about. This story in particular comes from the Charlotte Business Journal and covers the decision by Duke Energy Corp. to partner with UNC Chapel Hill to sponsor a wind farm pilot project. This concept of universities partnering with big business is particular compelling as a similar pairing could occur in the Northwest as Principle Power (or other companies) move forward with a Pacific Ocean wind turbine plan.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-windmill28-2009aug28,0,7107963.story

This piece, published in the Los Angeles Times, on August 28, 2009, explains recent bureaucratic details including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s creation of the first federal rules dealing with offshore wind development.  The focus of this piece is on wind projects in the Northeast, but applies to the whole country as the decisions made on those projects will set the precedent for how similar plans are dealt with in the West.

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