Saturday, October 6, 2007

Rhode Island Wind Farms Study

From TreeHugger, Rhode Island has commissioned and released a study (pdf) on the areas of the state most effective for the construction of wind farms. Only one onshore location was identified for large scale generation, and 10 potential offshore sites were identified. Several towns in the state have also expressed interest in participating in wind generation projects.

Its good to see that the governor and state has taken an interest and is setting a goal of 15% of electricity demand from wind power. The report seems to hold promise that this could be a practical project if there is political will to allocate the capital to building the turbines and creating the infrastructure to move the power from offshore wind farms onto the grid. It does point out also, however, that the structure of the New England electrical grid as a single market makes it difficult or impossible to guarantee that the power generated in Rhode Island is used in Rhode Island. They propose that some form of restructuring of the New England grid and/or an energy authority be created for Rhode Island to manage this and make sure that Rhode Island residents receive the benefits of this fixed cost electricity rather than the New England power market as a whole.

As with any such project, it will be slow to actually appear, even without a search for funding, the off-shore wind turbines that are proposed probably won't be available for 3-5 years. Given that, it'll probaby be 5-7 years before any off-shore wind power is added to the grid. A not-yet available turbine is recommended because of economies of scale for large offshore installation. By using a 3.6MW turbine, fewer towers can be constructed to generate the 200MW total for a site, reducing the capital costs, instead of using the proven and semi-stadard 1.5MW turbine.

There was also some examination of siting smaller wind installations for industrial clients as well, though only 4 were appropriate for "utility scale wind turbines."