Deep Ocean Windmills?

WindmillsSome days it seems there is just no good news to be found. Fortunately, lots of geeks keep their heads out of the news stream and immersed in their technologies of choice. It seems every other month a new wind power idea makes it off of someone’s drawing board. David Baker at the SF Chronicle does a good job of bringing some of them forward, though M.I.T.’s Technology Review is always filled with new items. Early in August the Chron’s front page showed an artist’s vision of deep-sea windmills, over the horizon from picky viewers and harnessed in large farms to under sea cables.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the wind blowing across California’s deep water could generate as much as 130 gigawatts of electricity. That’s roughly twice as much electricity as the state needs on a hot summer afternoon.

Principle Power, based in Seattle, last fall signed an agreement with the Tillamook People’s Utility District in Oregon to install the WindFloat off the coast of central Oregon as early as 2012. The project will start with a single WindFloat, capable of generating a maximum of 5 megawatts of electricity when running at full tilt. Megawatts measure the amount of electricity generated in any given instant, and one megawatt is enough electricity for 750 homes.

If all works as planned, the WindFloat project will expand into an entire offshore wind farm, covering 12 to 15 square miles and capable of generating 150 to 200 megawatts.

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There are plenty of questions to be answered, and asking the right ones comes first: what about loose electrical cables in the water? What about magnetic fields produced by electrical current? What is needed to get the cost down to compete with more at-hand sources? But it’s good that small armies of engineers and scientists are beginning to look. There isn’t a lot of time left to phase out the carbon crapped energy sources.

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