Monday, April 04, 2016

California off-shore wind dreaming

I've been sitting on this for a long time, but California received its first offshore windfarm application last fall that sounds pretty interesting to me. Whether it's truly a good idea or not comes down to details, but I am concerned that some people may say they're open to offshore wind in theory and then oppose every proposal in practice.


The truth is that we need answers to variability in renewable power, and offshore wind is less variable. It's also more expensive, but maybe that's the price of reliability.

My one contribution is that I read they're situating it outside of marine conservation sanctuaries, which can't be fished commercially, and that commercial fishers have concerns with fishing around the wind towers. Seems like the logical place to put them is in the marine conservation sanctuaries - maybe they'll be a bit of a deterrent to people fishing where they shouldn't. Sierra Club seems open to the idea of the proposal being situated within a proposed sanctuary.

So again, it comes down to details as to whether it's a good idea. We Californians are very ready to proclaim ourselves first in a lot of things, though, and we're very far behind when it comes to offshore wind. I hope we catch up.

More information on the application here and here.

15 comments:

Russell Seitz said...

The whales (WHUMP) should find (WHOMP) wind turbines (WHUMP) a pleasant (WHOMP) change from (WHUMP) sonar testing.

Fernando Leanme said...

Nitpicker. The whales will simply stay away.

I noticed they plan to anchor the system in 1500 feet of water. This means maintenance will be carried out by special self propelled dynamic positioning boats equipped with a very tall crane. That will be a sight to behold if they ever get this thing built.

Graydon said...

Ocean wind is easier if you give up on the "mill" part and use sailing ships. Drag the prop to generate electrical power -- "shaft alternator" is the traditional term -- and use the electrical power to synthesize something, preferably ammonia. Come ashore, pump out, re-victual, and out you go again.

Sailing ships are well understood; shaft alternators are well understood. Ammonia synthesis had better be well understood. (Three competing air-and-water-and-electricity processes I know about.) Ammonia storage and handling is definitely well understood. Fuel cells need work but there's at bunch to chose from; somebody needs to pick one.

It's simpler, quicker, faster, and more generally useful than big windmills, but it's not a utility power model so it would take a government getting interested.

Brian said...

Russell inspired me to look around for noise impacts to whales. CFACT is a big believer that whales are harmed by offshore wind, so there's that.

Looking for responsible sources doesn't show much. Construction noise can be a problem, but that's temporary (and that's for turbines anchored to the sea floor, while this particular project plans to float them). National Wildlife Federation concludes studies have shown no significant impacts in Europe with its thousands of offshore turbines.

I expect the damage from sonic exploration for undersea oil and gas is far worse, and that's the alternative, along with all the other damage from climate change and ocean acidification. It's an argument I've had with friends at Audubon - there's a cost to wildlife from not building wind turbines, so you have to examine the tradeoff. So far the offshore wind looks pretty good.

Russell Seitz said...

"So far the offshore wind looks pretty good."

There are times when I fear for Brian's sense oof aesthetics- they look even worse than they sound.

David B. Benson said...

Hear no wind turbine; see no wind turbine ...

Matt M said...

> "aesthetics"

How quickly we sank to the superficial.

Brian said...

Sadly, I'm unable to defend my sense of aesthetics, something people who know me can verify as a problem.

Jeffrey Davis said...

People go to Holland to see windmills. I think the big rows of wind turbines look fantastic. Very dramatic. They look like giants.

Russell Seitz said...

Jeffrey has been spending too much time in La Mancha.

OTOH, a free standing turbine vane can be very cool indeed-- better than most Brancusis, and high speed gas turbines look great at rest if you take the cowlings off, which kind of limits their performance

cRR Kampen said...

"People go to Holland to see windmills."
Well hah ffing hah.
We are owned by Exxon/NAM and Shell.
So renewables are on the decline in this country, that percentagewise is one of the two or three worst performers in Europe (28 countries).
Last year this country burnt more coal than ever before, and the coal contribution to the energy mix is increasing.

Nigel Franks said...

"There are times when I fear for Brian's sense oof aesthetics- they look even worse than they sound."
Well Russell, if you find them so offensive to sight and hearing when they're 15 miles away I envy you your superpowers. Trident Winds has filed early paperwork with Morro Bay city officials for a plan to install 100 floating turbines -- each up to 636 feet tall -- about 15 miles off the San Luis Obispo County shoreline.

Russell Seitz said...

I wouldn't have objected to Cape Wind parking a flotilla of them on Nantucket 's lightship shoals for the same reason :

Things too far away to see don't contribute much to visual pollution - nor do shingle- clad sail powered windmills that run at 12 rpm.

Those who want to put Hindenburg mooring masts in other people's front yards are the problem- the big uglies belong over the horizon and in the badlands of terra nullius.

Jeffrey Davis said...

We passed this array (I think this is the one) while the Carlsberg beer cruise sailed alongside us. The conjunction of 19th and 21st centuries war dramatic and striking. The party boat obviously sailed that way regularly. Lots of people like the way the turbine arrays look. Some people like the way bow ties look. Aesthetically, it's a big world.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/17/DanishWindTurbines.jpg

Russell Seitz said...

Very true - I have no objections to wind turbine farms that run equally gargantuan Bessemer converters as a distraction .