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Capturing the Wind: The Delaware Bluewater Wind Project
by: Julian Hoberman, James Lane, Obioha Nwabara Jr., and Nathaniel Twer
The Earth is an ever-evolving and ever-changing planet. In order to help it continue to evolve we must find a renewable and clean source of energy in contrast to current, destructive energy sources: that source is wind power. Remember those elementary days when your arts and crafts teacher had you fold your paper into an abundant amount of creases, and the outcome was a toy you could enjoy with a gust of air? Who knew that the idea behind that toy’s design would become a component in today’s energy crisis? While other sources of energy such as fossil fuels and nuclear power have temporarily sustained our energy needs, they are finite materials which will run out while simultaneously damaging the earth and risking the lives of its inhabitants. Everyone wants an economically beneficial and environmentally friendly form of energy but not everyone is willing to sacrifice for it. Imagine the day when society could truly benefit from energy by simply letting the wind blow. Well, if Bluewater Wind can help it, that day is dawning.
Background on Wind Power
“Growing energy demand and environmental consciousness have re-evoked human interest in wind energy. As a result, wind is the fastest growing energy source in the world today” says Sathyajith Mathew in
Despite the conception of wind power as an example of modern ideas and technology, this new demand for wind energy is a reborn vestige of ancient eras in which wind was used as a more direct power source on “ships and boats” and eventually “grinding mills and water pumps" (Mathew 2). Mathew describes the transformation in wind energy from the 1800s to modern day. From the early to late 1800s, wind power was primarily used to pump water, until 1900, when “the era of wind electric generators began...by 1910 several hundreds of such machines were supplying electrical power to the villages in Denmark.” By the 1930s “experimental wind plants” were being produced all over the world. One generated 20,000 kilowatts of electricity compared to the originals at the turn of the century which produced 12. In the 1950s there was “intensive research on the behavior of wind turbines” (4-5).
At this point, the idea of wind turbines as a major power source began to seem possible. However, simultaneously, as Mathew explains, other sources of energy were being introduced: including fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, which – at the time – produced “more reliable” (5) energy, and much more of it. These developments put the wind energy potential on hold until “the oil crisis of 1973, which forced scientists, engineers, and policy makers to have a second thought on fossil fuel dependence” (5) At the same time, “nuclear power became unacceptable to many due to safety reasons” (5). All this made room for the idea of wind power as a safe energy solution. Mathew explains how many countries around the world are now embracing wind power. The European Union, for example, "plans to meet 22 percent of their energy demand by renewable [energy] by 2010" (6). Here, Mathew depicts the recent growth of wind power:
"Wind is the world's fastest growing energy source today, and it has been retaining this position consecutively for the last five years. The global wind power capacity has increased by a factor of 4.2 during the last 5 years...With the increasing thrust on renewables and reducing cost of wind generated electricity, the growth of wind energy will continue in the years to come. According to European Wind Energy Association, wind with its expected 230,000 MW [megawatt] installation, can supply 12 percent of the global energy demand by 2010...The installed capacity may reach a level of 1.2 million MW by 2020" (7).
Judging from this information, one can see that wind could have a very big future as a primary worldwide energy source. Bluewater Wind has presented Delaware with the chance to be the United States' first host of an offshore wind park. Although an offshore wind park is unfavorable because of its lack of experience and aesthetic view, the beneficial effects of a offshore wind park are worth the risk. The majority of the Delaware residents have the right idea, in voting for the Bluewater wind proposal.
Delaware Project Specifics
Wind Farm site option 1; from bluewaterwind.com
Bluewater Wind, an energy company based out of New Jersey, has recently proposed to build the first offshore wind park, off the coast of Delaware. Their plan is to either build it 12.5 miles off the coast of Rehoboth Beach or 7 miles off the coast of Bethany Beach. Bluewater Wind intends on creating 200 wind towers, which would provide electricity to 130,000 Delaware homes on average. The wind park would thus produce 17% of the state’s power (Kempton and Levy). According to Jackie Cohen in his article headlined: "Public Power Has Increased Interest In Wind Energy" Delaware, along with 22 other states has passed a mandate ordering 10% of their energy to to come from renewable sources. Plans for these renewable energy sources must be in action by 2010. Delaware - with the Bluewater Project has shown itself as a pioneer with this somewhat large percentage of power planned to come from renewable sources. The project was first introduced when Lawmakers in Delaware decided to create a competition to introduce an alternative source of energy to Delaware, as a result of electrical prices increasing by 60%, according to NPR. The two other competing projects are a natural gas plant and a coal plant; however due to growing global warming concerns, and support from the Delaware Service Commission, wind power has taken the lead. Support of wind power, in Delaware, is astounding compared to the rest of the United States. According to NPR, a recent study by Jeremy Firestone, a professor of public policy at the University of Delaware, showed that 80 percent of Delaware residents are in favor of the project. The level of approval is shockingly opposite to that of citizens in Cape Cod, who had a strong disapproval due to the aesthetic effects of the wind turbines (NPR). Environmental organizations, such as Clean Air Council, are also in favor of the Delaware project because their emphasis on creating energy without releasing any pollution(NPR).
Wind Farm site option 2; from bluewaterwind.com
Last year state legislation was passed making homegrown energy a priority over importing energy. Therefore, Delmarva Power, the energy company providing electricity to the given area in Delaware, was forced to negotiate with Bluewater. According to The
, Delmarva Power and Bluewater have still not come to agreement about the purchase of energy created by the wind farm. If the agreement were to follow through, construction would take up to 3 years(Delaware).
Opposition to Wind Project
However, as with any other controversial plan, the Delaware wind project has its own opposition, namely proponents of the 'natural' beauty that exists in lower Delaware. Advocates of the natural landscape of southern Delaware say that they don't want to have their picturesque vistas ruined by the 200 towers that will have to be built to create this wind farm. What they fail to realize is that these towers will be constructed at least 6 miles off of the coast of Bethany Beach; it will be near impossible to see the towers even on the clearest of days (Delaware). Another issue raised by the project's opponents is what will happen when there is no wind. This is a valid concern as there are indeed days in which the wind dies down or even stops completely. In fact, an independent report done for Delmarva Power said, "... The wind farm may lack reliability on days when peak load is needed" (Chase) On these days, though, "Delmarva and the regional electric system operator will cover Delaware's energy needs from other sources in the state's energy portfolio." It will be as though the wind was blowing all the while as the power will shift from new-age wind power to more traditional sources of power like oil and coal(Delaware). The opponents of wind power in Delaware don't stop there however. They feel as though Delawareans should not have to be the first to try this new idea out for a spin; they say that many other areas of America have proposed wind power as a suitable alternative to fossil fuels and turned it down. Why should we jump on this horse when no one else has? History has shown that stepping off of the proverbial beaten path can be a great thing, whether it is Columbus' journey to the new world, or Seward’s Folly. Besides which those other states that turned down this wind alternative did not have the potential for wind power that Delaware possesses. For this reason it is best not to follow the pack but instead forge a new path for cleaner, safer, and endlessly renewable energy.
The Bluewater Project offers numerous advantages. Its apparent that the fossil fuels currently used as means of energy in Delaware are harmful to the environment. While fossil fuels and other non-renewable sources of energy release constant pollution, they are an ongoing threat to the health of the planet. In contrast, wind energy does not add any dangerous pollutions to the atmosphere; thus wind energy “unreservedly” earns the virtue “environmentally friendly” (Hau 535). Wind power is also considerably more efficient than fossil fuels, as they are finite and therefore, produce a finite amount of energy; whereas, there is an unlimited supply of wind and an infinite amount of wind energy, hence the term,
. There is no question to how efficiently wind power produces energy. According to Redlinger and his associates, improvement in “equipment efficiency, turbine sitting and high hub height” has enabled efficiency in wind energy to annually increase by 3 percent from 1980 to 1997 (75). If this trend continues to present day, given the technological advances, the efficiency of current and future wind turbines should be exponentially greater than that of the 1980’s. Delaware’s “central question is, therefore: whether the manufacturing costs are so high that the generation of energy becomes uneconomical, despite the fuel savings” (Hau 703).
As explained by Erich Hau in his book:
Wind Turbines: Fundamentals, Technologies, Application, Economics
, The extraordinary high cost of the past land wind parks influences viewers' prospective of the regenerated offshore wind parks; and so, encourages them to believe the cost of an offshore site would be similarly high in cost. However, the truth is exactly the opposite. The early experimental wind turbines were extremely expensive, individually manufactured prototypes, with the cost focused on associated extensive research and development programs” (Hau 703). In the first phase of wind power it was not easy to separate the costs of research and development from that of construction or operation; therefore, the published cost figures were inaccurate and frequently contradictory” (Hau 706). Also the uncertain “design criteria and quality requirements” influenced the cost of the large experimental turbines(Hau 706.) In essence the high costs of the experimental generation were the result of conflicting discussions about the future prospects of this technology” (Hau 706). Hau notes “the cost of individually manufactured prototypes differs from that of a series-produced products mainly because certain components become considerably cheaper when produced in larger numbers” (710).
There have been some of these monetary issues associated with the Delaware Bluewater Project, but if all goes well, the offshore wind park will be the result of a series-produced product. Once the windmills are built, the energy milled will be essentially free, and the costs will only be associated with the maintenance of the windmills, making the entire project extremely cheap in the long run. According to the Clean Air Council, the project would also offer price stability to those in the area, job creation, and environmental protection. They also point out the fact that in-state energy is more beneficial to the state economy, rather than importing it from out-of-state. It is more beneficial because of the publicity that would come with the wind farm, resulting in a boost in the economy. According to U.S’ department of Energy’s Office, wind energy “reduces gas demand” and as a result “limits gas price hikes”. Lowering the demand of natural gas will reduce rising costs of consumer gas utilities (2). This would allow residents to see a direct decrease in cost of energy.
Even after the wind park is built the engineers will continue to work on lowering costs. Hau reports that throughout recent years “progress has been made towards lower production costs of wind turbines…Wind turbines of current design have by no means reached the final stage in their technical development. The existing potential for development will be utilized not only for increasing the efficiency and service life of wind turbines, but also for a further reduction of their manufacturing cost...advancing the design-and component-specific development of wind turbines still offers a variety of starting points for improvement with regard to lowering production costs” , and proposes a infinite realm of improvement possibilities. (728-729)
In conclusion, the wind project proposed by Bluewater Wind is a great idea for Delaware. Wind power creates a renewable source of energy that will be cheaper than traditional means of energy such as oil and natural gas. Unlike oil and natural gas, however, wind power creates absolutely no wind pollution, is safe for the environment, and is unaffected by market prices. This creates an almost perfect source of energy for a few reasons: Wind can be harnessed for uses such as wind farms, but it is not a commodity to be traded, sold, or horded as with something like oil or natural gas. Because of this prices cannot skyrocket for wind power. Wind is endless, meaning that there will not be a time in which the wind permanently runs out on Planet Earth. The same cannot be said about natural gas or oil which must be harvested from the earth; besides which only a finite amount of each remain; one day they will run out. Wind power is also the cleanest energy form of the three by far as it is simply the air we breathe everyday moving about. There is no conceivable situation in which someone would ever drink oil, or choose to breathe in natural gas. With that in mind, think about the dangers of things like oil spills in the arctic or the extreme flammability of natural gas; wind brings none of these problems with the same benefits and then some. In essence, the best alternative to current sources of energy in Delaware has to be wind power.
Offshore Wind Turbines; from renewableenergyaccess.com
Chase, Randall. "Wind Power At Center of Electricity Debate in Delaware." The News Journal 3 May 2007.
. University of Delaware Library, Newark, DE. 7 Aug. 2007.
Cohen, Jackie. "S&P: Public Power Has Increased Interest in Wind Energy." Editorial.
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Petersen, Jens K., and Torleif Malm. "Offshore Windmill Farms: Threats to or Possibilities for the Marine Environment."
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