Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why Offshore Wind Lags on the West Coast

Kate Galbraith of the New York Times Green Inc. blog last week took a look at why the West Coast isn't seeing as much interest in offshore wind power as the East Coast:
The main problem, experts say, is topography. Whereas the continental shelf extends for miles off the East Coast, the bedrock drops off sharply just beyond the West Coast –- making it too deep to anchor the turbines with current technology.
This means it's comparatively cheaper to build on land even with "Outstanding" to "Superb" wind resources just offshore, as rated by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Green Inc. also cites economics:
A second difficulty is power prices. Electricity in California, while expensive relative to the middle of the country, is still cheaper than in most of New England. This makes offshore wind projects less economical. (Electricity in Washington and Oregon is cheaper still.)
Bluewater Wind's Peter Mandlestam mentions another engineering challenge: the threat of earthquakes. Lower energy prices, engineering challenges and abundant land based wind resources combine to make offshore wind less attractive. The only proposed offshore wind power project on the West Coast is in British Columbia.


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