Offshore Wind Energy Cost Competitive by 2020

Deepwater wind energy turbines off the coast of Maine could be producing electricity that is cost competitive with conventional generation techniques within the next 10 years.

The Portland (ME) Press Herald reports that a study from the University of Maine shows that floating giant wind turbines 10 miles off the coast could be producing electricity for just 8-10 cents a kilowatt hour, on par with current costs:

Building floating platforms on land and towing them to their deepwater locations will be much cheaper than erecting turbine towers on the sea floor, researchers say. Seabed turbines are common in Europe and are the preferred design for proposed wind farms in shallow waters off the East Coast of the United States.

These projections are part of an exhaustive study of the feasibility of offshore wind in Maine that’s aimed at energy developers around the world. The $1 million study, paid for by the federal Department of Energy, is meant to answer many questions that developers will have about whether it makes sense to invest in the Gulf of Maine…

This demonstration, with a total capacity of 25 megawatts, will be too small and experimental to produce market rate power, according to Habib Dagher, the UMaine professor overseeing the effort. But it will offer a chance for a developer to explore the potential of a commercial-scale project off the Maine coast around 2020.

Dagher and his associates are in touch with roughly four dozen companies around the world involved in offshore wind. The study, Dagher said, will save a prospective bidder years of research and millions of dollars. He is hopeful that the study’s detailed data will entice at least a couple of qualified developers to consider Maine over other locations where the potential for deepwater wind energy is being considered. “This will give Maine a major leg up,” he said.

Maine will test a 25-megawatt pilot floating offshore wind project off Monhegan Island with hopes of producing commercial-scale wind energy amounts by 2020.

One thought on “Offshore Wind Energy Cost Competitive by 2020

  1. Right and good, but as the University’s own researchers nervously acknowledge in their new report, there may be ecological complications that were not being considered by DeepCwind until, fairly late in the game, research by a Norwegian researcher Goran Brostrom was factored into

    As Brostrom observed, operating offshore floating windmills create enormous upwelling zones in the water column below them. These thermally distinct water masses, continuously pulled from the seafloor (a meter a day says the UMaine report) by ocean windparks, not only provide nutrients that change water column biodiversity, but also can divert or slow surface currents transitting ocean windparks.

    What is making for some uneasiness is the fact that the offshore location the state has chosen for DeepCwind to put their full scale floaters happens to be smack in the middle of the Gulf of Maine’s biggest lobster larvae migration route – just before that surface current (Eastern Maine Coastal Current )reaches Penobscot Bay.

    Issue 1: Lots of lobsters larvae will settle on the floaters – and be quickly eaten by fish since they can’t burrow into the steel but must remain exposed.

    Issue 2. Fish and invertebrate species that prey on lobster larvae will exploit the vertical windpole habitat as a base from which to devour the hapless baby bugs passing through..

    Issue 3. Surface currents diverted by the upwelling may send some percentage of Penobscot Bay’s incoming year class of age zero lobsters careening past that bay and south to Massachusetts Bay.

    So yes, there may be impacts to lobster. While as recently as six months ago Dr. Dagher was disinclined to evaluate the “upwelling question”, the new report acknowledges and discusses the issue three times. (Search the report for “Brostrom” to read those sections.)

    For ease of reading the new DeepCwind report, the below link leads to a copy of the report broken into into separate chapters, instead of a single 557 page pdf file
    http://tinyurl.com/deepc2011