At a VIMS After Hours Lecture last week, VIMS alumnus Charles Natale explored the environmental opportunities and regulatory challenges associated with developming offshore renewable wind energy projects. Natale is President and CEO of ESS Group, Inc., one of the Northeast's largest environmental consulting and engineering companies and the company that has jumping through regulatory hoops for 7 years to get the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound up and running. It would be America's first offshore wind farm. . . and it may be operational in 2015. A lot of wind will be wasted by that time.
Their website also offers this information: Studies of birds and offshore wind farms in Europe have found that there are very few bird collisions. Most birds have been observed by cameras and by radar to fly around the wind farms, and those birds flying through the wind farms have been observed flying through the open corridors between turbine rows. Several offshore wind sites in Europe have been in areas heavily used by seabirds. Improvements in wind turbine design, including a much slower rate of rotation of the blades and a smooth tower base instead of perchable lattice towers, have helped reduce bird mortality at wind farms around the world. Birds are severely impacted by fossil fuel energy; examples include birds dying from exposure to oil spills, habitat loss from acid rain and mountaintop removal coal mining, and mercury poisoning.
If you've read that the Institute for Energy Research (IER) recently debunked wind energy, consider the source before you swallow this think tank's "objective research." Their president is a former oil industry lobbyist. Their federal affairs director was on the staff of the lobbying group Arctic Power, that works toward the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's wild coast becoming an oilfield.
So next time you go to Virginia Beach, look out to the horizon. Offshore drilling or offshore wind farms?