Friday, September 5, 2008

Offshore Wind Map Issues


Real cool new (for me, at least) offshore wind power mapping site: OffshoreWind.net. It shows (via those googlemap pins) proposed North American offshore wind farm projects.

What's surprised me the most? The proximity of some of these sites to major bird migration areas. For example:

1. Zoom in on the Leamington Project in Lake Erie (just right of Detroit). Zoom in nice and close. See that point of green land? See it? Do you know what that is? It's Point Pelee, Ontario, one of the World's greatest migration spots (ranked the 5th best birding hotspot in North America)! Look how close that pin is!

Look, I am a HUGE proponent of offshore wind power, even for freshwater. A large part of my enthusiasm, however, derives from the fact that many land-based siting issues (including: bird migrations, NIMBY, transportation restrictions, potential human effects from rotations) can be avoided by siting turbines on featureless, windy bodies of water.

Why, then, is the Leamington Farm positioned directly in the path of one of the world's most celebrated flyways? Because the OffshoreWind.net person messed up. Below is the project map for the Leamington and Kingsville projets, from the South Point Wind website:



As you can see, it's not set directly off Point Pelee. It's close, though. In the end, here is my point:

Offshore wind allows much more flexibility in turbine siting than land-based wind. While siting turbines as close to power users is ideal, offshore wind farms should be sited to take maximum advantage of their location, i.e. away from birds and away from people.

2. Same issue with the Wind Energy Systems Technologies project proposed off Jefferson County, Texas (the northernmost pin on the Texas coast). It's located between the mega-important High Island and Sabine NWR.

I'm conflicted on Gulf of Mexico offshore wind power...or could at least use some convincing. The winds in the Gulf aren't as strong as a lot of other offshore spots. Lighted oil rigs in the Gulf already as many as 300,000 birds a year.

The point is almost the same as the one above: Since offshore wind allows us to put turbines in a wider area, why put them so close to High Island and Sabine NWR, where the birds are possibly flying at a lower altitude to prepare to land?

3. No proposed projects for the coast of Maine? For shame.

2 comments:

John said...

Thanks for posting this link. It really ought to be much easier to site offshore wind projects properly, as long as the bird flight paths are studied in advance.

Cliff Rohde said...

I think some folks are planning a Maine offshore project. See http://www.oceanenergy.org/.

Cheers,
Cliff Rohde
http://windpowerlaw.wordpress.com

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