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Down East wind features call for half-mile or more setbacks, floating offshore, limited forest ridge development

Human impacts, News, Ocean, Wildlands, Wind turbines Add comments

Down East magazine, a Maine institution, has published a series of stories on wind power in Maine, with enough detail to be valuable to people in any rural state who are trying to find the proper balance on wind development.  The series includes in-depth articles on the University of Maine’s leadership in developing floating far-offshore wind farms and on controversy surrounding the potential for many ridgetop wind farms in the relatively wild mountains of western Maine, and an editorial noting the quick and fearful reactions of many communities to just the thought of a new wind farm.

In the article detailing facts about Maine’s current wind power sites and proposals (which reads as generally supportive of wind development), the short section on noise impacts, noting both the moderate noise levels and big impact reported by some neighbors, was followed by a surprisingly blunt recommendation about setbacks: “Half a mile, at minimum. But most agree that a mile is more advisable, as virtually no complaints have been lodged by neighbors this far from a wind turbine.”

The wildlands article makes the case for protecting Maine’s highest ridgetops (over 2700 feet) from development, and focusing on smaller-scale, distributed alternative energy generation, including solar as well as wind, built closer to existing power infrastructure.

The article on the future of floating offshore wind is especially inspiring.  The UMaine team plans to test three 1/3-scale turbines in 2012, with comprehensive environmental monitoring, including subsea impacts, and follow that with a full-scale 3-5MW turbine by 2014, the first “stepping stone” multi-turbine 25MW wind farm 20-50 miles offshore by 2016, and expansion to 500MW or more by 2020.   Here’s an excerpt:

“This is a one thousand-megawatt farm covering an eight-square-mile area,” says Habib Dagher, the man who created this vision and is now leading a team of engineers, environmental scientists, government policymakers, and offshore construction and energy industry leaders called the DeepCwind Consortium who hope to make it, the world’s first floating wind farm, a reality. “In the Gulf of Maine, that’s like an outhouse in the corner of a football field.”

Make that three outhouses. DeepCwind’s goal is to have three such wind farms bobbing twenty to fifty miles off the Maine coast and generating enough energy to power three million homes by 2030. It’s a breathtaking idea, and still it doesn’t fill the frame that has been drawn by Habib Dagher. He envisions Mainers converting to electricity to heat their homes and power their cars (the cost makes no sense now, he concedes, but it will in two decades, given the price increases predicted for fossil fuels) and the state becoming the Silicon Valley of offshore energy. Towers, blades, and other components will be manufactured right here, using technologies and materials pioneered by the University of Maine’s AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center, which he founded and directs.

One Response to “Down East wind features call for half-mile or more setbacks, floating offshore, limited forest ridge development”

  1. Peter Says:

    c’est un bon moyen d’aller vers un monde VERT.