Largest Offshore Wind Farm Is Inaugurated

Denmark last week officially opened the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Horns Rev 2, which is in the North Sea just west of the Jutland peninsula. It is a collaboration of Denmark's Dong Energy and Siemens Renewable Energy, which provided the 91 turbines that together have a capacity of 209 MW. Covering 35 square kilometers of ocean water, it is the first offshore wind farm to be permanently staffed, by a 24-person contingent based on a platform.

Horn Revs 2 represents a significant step forward in offshore wind, the Danes having overcome some troubles with Horns Rev 1, as described several years ago in a Spectrum news report. In October 2002 Spectrum provided a vivid account of how the first farm was built, including an exciting climb up one of the turbine towers by the magazine's intrepid reporter.

What are the implications of Denmark's pioneering work in offshore wind? They're far reaching but also controversial. Germany wants to expand reliance on North Sea and Baltic winds in order to avoid having to negotiate an exit from its scheduled nuclear exit; that is, it would prefer not to build any new nuclear power plants and to dismantle those in operation as soon as possible.

But why replace nuclear reactors with wind when one could just as well replace dirty coal?

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens would like to build out wind in order to replace natural gas in power generation, so as to free up gas for vehicular propulsion; he would tap the north-south "wind spine" running down the U.S. plains states. This blogger, however, would replace coal--not natural gas--with wind, because coal is two or three times as carbon intense as natural gas. To do that, I'd tap into the offshore winds prevailing on the Great Lakes, which also are among the country’s windiest regions.

The advantage of the Great Lakes, which for some reason nobody ever mentions in this context, is that they're smack dab in the heart of the U.S. industrial heartland, right where most of the country's coal is burned at present. Added costs of building wind turbines offshore would be recovered in lower transmission costs.

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