Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Are the answers blowing in the wind?

It was quite an interesting juxtaposition in time.

The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported Monday that the Corzine administration is:

"quietly taking the first steps toward creating an array of giant windmills off the South Jersey coast to turn ocean breezes into electricity. It could involve as many as 80 wind-powered turbines towering 30 stories high over the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between southern Ocean County and Cape May."

That's certainly an ambitious undertaking. But what makes the timing of the story so interesting is that it comes just days after the chairman of the Long Island Power Authority in neighboring New York announced the authority was dropping plans for the construction of a wind farm off Jones Beach because of escalating projected costs.

Newsday reported that the decision followed on the heels of a study by Pace Global Energy Services which found that:

"the premium for wind-generated power from the Jones Beach project, over a 20-year period, would translate to about $2.50 per month to the typical residential consumer bill, or a total $66 million per year for all of LIPA."

PACE arrived at the figure, according to Newsday, by comparing the cost of electricity produced in a combined-cycle natural gas power plant on Long Island, which is about $137 per megawatt hour, and a megawatt hour of power produced by the wind farm, which it said "could be $291."

So, what does New York's findings mean for New Jersey's project? So far, potential environmental concerns seem to be the primary stumbling blocks, not costs. The environmental community is split on the prospect of an offshore wind farm, with the American Littoral Society opposing the idea, while the Audubon Society and Sierra Club support it.

But the debate is in its early stages, as the state's Board of Public Utilities is only beginning to solicit proposals from potential developers to determine what it would take to actually build an offshore wind farm.

One interested New Jersey firm is Hoboken-based Bluewater Wind, which plans to build a 200-turbine wind farm off Delaware in 2012 at a cost of $2 billion.

Affordable in Delaware but not New York? Why?

The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind. Stay tuned to what should be a very interesting policy debate.

Sidenote: New York leads the tri-state region with eight wind-power installations generating a total of 390 mega watts of wind energy . Pennsylvania is second with 179MW and New Jersey's only wind farm--in Atlantic City--generates 8 MW. The largest wind states are Texas (3352 MW), California (2376) and Iowa (976).

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