May 3, 2010

Offshore winds could supply 10% of Virginia's power demands

and that's not a bunch of hot air!

Good news! The state-funded Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium just reported that an offshore wind farm could provide 10 percent of Virginia’s electricity demands. What a timely report, as BP’s oil slick approaches our Gulf Coast!

Just days after federal approval of Massachusetts’ Cape Wind project (after nine years of review and permits), the report identified 25 potential lease spots where hundreds of turbines could be installed 12 miles offshore—perhaps as soon as 2016.

Using 2008 dollars, a 600-megawatt offshore wind farm could produce electricity at $105 to $130 per megawatt-hour, contrasting with $85 to $100 from a coal-fired power plant. But you need to remember that coal is cheaper only if we look the other way at their carbon and mercury emissions. Factor in reducing those emissions, and the cost for coal’s power would rise dramatically.

Talk about green jobs for Virginians? Our state could be on the cutting edge if we could manufacture the parts here. If we can construct Navy ships in Hampton Roads, the components for a wind farm should be a piece of cake.

The ecological disaster still unfolding off the Louisiana and Mississippi coast will hopefully stifle some of the “Drill, baby, drill” enthusiasts. Then we can get serious about wind farms off the Virginia coast. The biggest opposition comes from the “Oh no, we don’t want to look at wind vanes on the Virginia Beach horizon” whiners. But we surely don’t want to look at oil slicks washing up on the beach either. I’ll take wind vanes any day.