Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting energy from ocean wind and waves

For anyone interested in alternative energy, we recommend two
new and very interesting articles.

In Sunday's New York Times Magazine, writer Mark Svenbold's
Wind-Power Politics profiles Peter Mandelstam and his New Jersey-based BlueWater Wind, a tiny company that's making giant strides in bringing ocean-based, wind power to the East Coast.

Svenbold describes Mandelstam as a "47-year-old native New Yorker who is capable of quoting Central European poets and oddball meteorological factoids with ease" and one who had "committed himself — and the tiny company he formed in 1999 — to building utility-scale wind-power plants offshore, a decision that, to many wind-industry observers, seemed to fly in the face of common sense."

Indeed, BlueWater Wind has overcome formidable political and public opinion hurdles in winning its opportunity to build a wind farm off the coast of Delaware.

Part of the company's success can be attributed to a fortuitous combination of soaring oil prices, a growing public awareness of the folly of yoking the nation's economy to sometimes hostile foreign energy sources, and a rising public interest in alternative energy.

But it's also due, in no short measure, to what Svenbold describes as the "Bluewater touch" — a "crisp, informative, ever-helpful, a supercharged, Eagle Scout attentiveness" that is part corporate style and part calculated public-relations approach. That style would pay off tremendously " in the company’s barnstorming campaign of Delaware town meetings and radio appearances to capture what Mandelstam had reason to believe would be the first offshore-wind project in the country’s history. "

One of the reasons why Bluewater Wind's off-shore wind park is being viewed as economically viable is because its turbines will be close enough to big power markets in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington to avoid construction of expensive and politically unpopular transmission lines.

The fact that about half the world population lives within 50 miles of coastline also may prove to be a selling point for "wave-power," a technology that's being explored by several alternative energy pioneers in Europe and America, including Ocean Power Technologies of Pennington, NJ.

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, staffer Sandy Bauers writes about the company and its co-founder, George W. Taylor, a 74-year-old engineer who learned the power of waves as a young surfer growing up in Australia.

Above, George W. Taylor, founder and CEO of Ocean Power Technologies in Pennington, N.J., wants to moor buoys off the world's coasts and pump electricity ashore via underwater cables. A test buoy is located five miles off the southern tip of Long Beach Island, N.J., where it makes enough power to run its onboard computer and send periodic progress reports. Photo credit: Clem Murray/Inquirer Staff Photographer


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