24 January 2015

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The Future Outlook Of Wind Energy Sources

Wind energy can be a very viable resource for cheaper electricity. However, it is not as developed as many would like. There are special considerations of developing it as an important resource. Advancements are being made, and incentives for encouraging development, but there is still a long way to go. 

In the United States, thirty-eight states have significant wind energy facilities. Only fourteen produce over 1000 MW. The top five of these are Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, and Washington. These figures are from 2010.

States that do not have any wind farms at this time are: Nevada, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, and Rhode Island. There may be a number of reasons these states are not on board yet, but most likely it is the lack feasibility due to limited wind resources.

Not all states are equally able to produce the wind energy. The characteristics that are favorable to its development are: enough wind resources, rail and highway networks for shipping the oversized turbines, flat topography which lends to better wind and easier shipping, and it has to be largely accepted by farmers and ranchers.

One very possible source of increased wind energy is in harnessing the power of offshore winds. The amount of possible energy is astronomical, and it is near areas that demand large quantities of electricity. The coastal areas are the fastest growing and most energy demanding. The U.S., at this time, does not have any offshore projects. Other countries do have them, quite successfully.

Offshore resources have their own specific challenges that must be addressed. Due to the saline environment, turbines pose a special challenge. Also, technology needed to develop this source must be balanced by the economic resources. This source of energy, fully developed, will provide an inexhaustible source, clean and domestic.

In addition to an unlimited source of energy, developing these offshore resources has a very important economic impact. Just a minimal development of gigawatts could lead to a significant increase in manufacturing, job opportunities, and the assembly and transport of the needed equipment, contributing to a “green” coastal economy.

A number of federal agencies that regulate and promote alternative energy issues have impacted the idea of offshore development through different acts and regulations. The continental shelf, where the energy sources would be developed, is regulated by these agencies and has been designated as available. Economic incentives further contribute to this as a very viable alternative energy source. This means the focus in the future may well be in offshore development.

There are some definite considerations to developing this energy. Air and water quality is one consideration. In addition, the possible impact on sea life, seafloor habitats, coastal habitats, and fisheries are another. In addition, such things as multiuse policies, cultural impact, and socioeconomic impact are also to be considered.

All things being considered the offshore opportunity may well be the best available for the alternative of wind energy. However, government support in both policy and economic incentives are going to have to be initiated and/or continued in order for the project to be viable in a sufficient quantity to make it economically feasible. 

Submitted by: Chris Carson

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