Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Maritime skills aid windmill workers - Bangor Daily News

This article from the Bangor Daily News reports on two mariners who have combined their engineering backgrounds and stomach for perilous situations to inspect and maintain Maine's new push for alternative energy.

"The winds that once powered fleets of Maine’s storied sailing ships now churn out the juice for a green energy industry the state is breathlessly pursuing. Technology that moves ships through the seas is much the same as what’s applied on the turbines."Maritime skills aid windmill workers
By The Associated Press

If you've sailed past the shores of Holland lately you may have noticed the pinwheel topped spires laid out in neat rows along the coast. These huge wind towers have been and are still being erected in massive fields up and down the North Sea. Their immensity is staggering, the operation to erect and maintain them massive and the consensus around European power producers solid. Why else would you bother to erect a string of wind turbines along a breakwater which shelters a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal as they did in Zeebrugge Belgium. Both sources of energy which are not going away anytime soon.

In northern New England wind power is a hotly debated topic. Many residents want the investment in renewable energy to be made now lessening dependence on fossil fuel and bringing new jobs to the region. Others cite the impact on the environment from the land foot print needed, disruption to migratory birds and their aesthetic unpleasantness as reasons to not construct wind farms.

Of course land based wind power is just the first step. To date the United States hasn't yet ventured into deep waters to erect wind turbines on the scale that Europe has:

The Ocean Energy Institute, founded by Matthew Simmons, is advocating developing wind power in the Gulf of Maine that would generate sufficient power in winter to replace the state's consumption of home heating oil.

Angus King, a former governor of Maine, is supportive of the idea."I see this as a huge economic development opportunity for Maine,... This thing could create 20,000 to 30,000 jobs." However, others have challenged the project's projected cost, which could reach $25 billion. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Maine)

The State of Maine is now the largest wind power producing state in New England. With the construction of offshore wind power, like the turbine fields I sail by in the North Sea, Maine could be one of the largest in the country. Not to mention a lot of mariners could be put to work in their own back yards including mine.

And just in case you were wondering what an offshore wind farm would look like on your 3 CM radar when ranged out to 12 miles and offset it would appear something like this. There are two wind farms in the lower right quadrant of the picture. One is the circular group of yellow blips, the other rectangle shaped and still under construction with 37 larger turbines. Of course the proposed wind farm for the Gulf of Maine would have 1000 turbines!

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