Fri Feb 20th, 2009 at 12:24:35 PM EST
Here is a story about a new and very nifty offshore wind platform for waters that are more than 50 meters (164 ft) deep:
Here is the company doing this:
It will probably be demonstrated off the shore of Portugal initially (that part of the Atlantic Ocean is quite similar to the Pacific Coastline of North America, as it's really windy, and gets decently deep fast). Right now, Europe rules with respect to offshore wind.
Obviously, this will have great utility in deeper near coastal ocean waters, such as those found between Washington State and California (the Pacific gets deep really fast; the Atlantic is much shallower near shore). It will also be very useful in the Gulf of Mexico, where most of the US Southeast wind resources are located. And, in some cases (like the Gulf of Maine), there are US Atlantic applications.
But this unit, and ones like it, really would do wonders for the deeper waters in the Great Lakes. In particular, Lake Ontario comes to mind in my neck of the woods (most of Lake Erie is in the 0 to 30
meter depths, and there are established, well demonstrated and less expensive foundations for those shallower waters). This also would be great for Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, where only a small
percentage of these lakes are in the 0 to 40 meter depth. After all, the average depth of Lake Superior is 462 feet, and often deeper in its windier zones. However, there is a deep zone in Lake Erie (59
meters), which is where the most intense winds across the lake happen to be.
Lake........Ave Depth ft m
There are about 40 million people currently residing near the Great Lakes, mostly in 5 metro regions (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal), and the only fossil fuel resources are a bit of oil and gas in Michigan and a lot of brimstone laden coal in Illinois, with less malodorous coal in Pennsylvania. But, lots of wind and water....
Units such as these floating turbine foundations could be readily mass produced in any Great Lakes City with a port/docks and the ability to work with steel. Like Buffalo/Lackawanna/Tonawanda, for example. This would make a great use of the former Bethlehem and Republic Steel sites, as well as some places like the Colorado Iron & Steel site (next to Huntley, a 400 MW coal burning ancient entity), and even the former GM foundry in Tonawanda. All you need is water access or even train access for the major parts, which can be modularly sub-assembled at ports and then assembled at the proposed turbine sites.
Also, see links for maps. In the GL map (last link), the areas where platforms like this would come in handy are the green and blue shades, or about 75% of the surface area of the Great Lakes. That is MORE than enough to power up ALL of the US and Canada, but that is not necessary, as lots of regions have plenty of renewables to keep themselves happy and then some. But there is a benefit to doing a significant chunk of energy production near where it is consumed, and then buffering this with other areas, so in the rare event that the Great Lakes are not sufficiently windy, well somebody else is getting more than well..er...winded. Those places also can import the excess from the Great Lakes when the weather tables are turned, or the excess can also be easily stashed. For example, many of the areas near Lake Superior are quite steep. Lake Superior could become a giant "hydro-battery" for the midsection of the North American continent (there are also several other such potentials in the US and Canada). However, this is more than enough to completely rid ourselves of the need to use
nukes, coal and Ngas to make any electricity, unless this is a result of co-gen operations (which tends to get rid of the nuke option, as these are not reliable enough for co-gen). In addition, much of our liquid
fuel supply could be obtained by either hydrogenating nitrogen (ammonia is both a fertilizer and can be a fuel) or carbon dioxide (methanol, ethanol, butanols, synthetic gasoline, diesel), often in conjunction with fermentation and biomass frying/combustion. And of
course, stored electrical energy is easily obtained by pumping water up a hill, and running it downhill back to lakes to make this electricity, as is done on both sides of Niagara Falls at present.
Anyway, here is a future almost completely renewably powered. It will require sensible feed-in laws to make this economically viable, and to effect a smooth transition between our present unsustainable ways and
a future that is sustainable as well as one that has a significantly larger number of manufacturing jobs in our region than is currently the case. And for scenarios like this, energy efficiency still reigns supreme, but that only takes you so far, and it certainly will not replace the natural gas used to keep us warm on winter nights. And of course, the
more wind turbines located on land means that less have to be located offshore (the offshore ones will be about 4 c/kw-hr more expensive than the onshore ones, which will be about 10 c/kw-hr in most feed-in
Anyway, between 5 to 9 c/kw-hr is the difference between a sustainable, high employment future and an unsustainable, low employment, pollution based future based on a declining fossil fuel energy resource. In effect, that's the price of freedom from nukes and
fossil fuels and especially imported oil and natural gas. Or the drowning of much of the big ocean coastal metropolitan areas via the action of Global Warming from CO2 pollution on the Greenland Ice-sheets. It's also the price for an expanding economy, and not a shrinking one, as well as a society not in a downward spiral based on a few high income "intellectual" (but no longer financial-real estate-insurance-speculation based) jobs and a vast mass of under and unemployed struggling over the scraps of the few remaining
manufacturing and construction jobs not taken by our
Chinese/Indian/European creditor overlords, thanks largely to Bu$h & Co, but also plenty of shared "stupid".
Here is a link to Great Lake Depth maps (Lake Superior is MIA for now)
Or, there is this map:
Oh well, a person can always dream...And besides, in this part of our continent, its the only places where those darn wind robbing, wind abrading trees don't grow.