Wind energy sweeping through Myrtle Beach
November 30, 2010
HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF)
- Wind energy is making waves, not only as a green energy source, but also as a potential for big business opportunities. The possibility for industry growth has business leaders and government officials across the country scrabbling to get in on the ground floor.
"If we could get on the cutting edge of this we could develop the industry locally on the Grand Strand where we produce these things," North Myrtle Beach Spokesperson Pat Dowling explained.
"We've really made way for the use of community wind power," Dowling said. "That is turbines that are 170 feet tall or less that can generate power for let say our operations within the city or for a hotel."
Tuesday's summit at the Avista Resort in North Myrtle Beach, however, promises to focus on a movement much larger. Instead of "community wind", future industry leaders will be looking at "big wind" opportunities.
"Imagine an airbus, an airplane, spinning on top of the Washington monument," CCU Researcher Dr. Paul Gayes described. "This is a big machine and it generates a lot of power."
Gayes say offshore wind is where the greatest potential for energy generation will be found.
Initially the state energy office commissioned a study to be done on the general pattern of wind off the coast.
As a follow up, Gayes says CCU researchers tested wind power out in the ocean or a year using weather buoys to find out if enough wind was available to make offshore wind energy profitable.
"That [wind] resource gets closer and closer to the coast when you get further north in the state. So off of the Grand Strand you have the strongest winds closest to the coast," Gayes states.
Gayes goes on to say they now have more concrete data to prove wind potentials off the Carolina coast.
"What those observations showed was that the kinds of resources that were anticipated are there," Gayes said.
To be the first to make it happen, however, South Carolina will have to compete with areas like the Northeast.
"It certainly has a lot more political support [in the northeast]," Gayes explained. "Governors have stood up and said 'We want to be first' and they've made grand proclamations about trying to make it happen. South Carolina has very quietly been doing its homework."
Other factors working South Carolina's favor include the Grand Strands relatively new power infrastructure compared to the aging systems often seen in the northeast. Gayes says because power has been historically run towards the coast instead of inland it will take a grid system with a certain capacity and structure to handle the flow. He says Clemson researchers recently completed a study looking at the health and capacity of the grid and the results showed the grid would likely be robust enough to support wind energy power.
Gayes says the relatively shallow continental shelf off of the Carolina coast would also be another positive when looking to build infrastructure out in the Atlantic compared to the deeper slopes off the West coast.
Grabbing the right attention at Tuesday's summit could be just what industry leaders are looking for to direct the future of wind energy off the South Carolina coast.
"The first ones in, they're the ones that develop the industry," Gayes explained. "They're the ones that have the intellectual capital; they go tell everyone else how to do it. They're the ones that make out. Everyone else that comes in 4th, 5th, 6th ... they're along for the ride."
Gayes says the next step at this point is to construct a platform that would verify the winds they have modeled at elevation. When that is verified Gayes says it will be easier to get the financing for a wind energy project. He says the state has also formed a regulatory task force to look into permitting issues that could crop up with a new industry like wind energy.
A public forum on the future of offshore wind energy will take place at the Avista Resort in North Myrtle Beach Tuesday night.
"There have been a lot of these meetings around the state and this one has been kind of saved for last because it's the Grand Strand, it's really the most practical first place to go," Gayes explained. "They're here because there's a lot of energy. There's a lot of interest. There's a lot of momentum in this direction and it's the place to have this discussion."
So far Gays says the responses they have seen across the state have been fairly positive. He says while the new industry could help to diversify the economy, it could also potentially boost the current driver: tourism.
Gayes noted that Europe models have shown that wind farms have the potential to provide additional tourism benefits by creating artificial reefs for recreational fishing as well as an simply being and additional tourist attraction for people to visit.
"I think anyone that you ask 'should we be doing this?' they all say 'yes'. But if you put an X on the map and it's off their particular section of the coast then there's some rethinking of that," Gayes said adding it that future investors will likely be keeping a close eye on public perception. "If they've got to find some place to be, they probably want to be somewhere they're wanted."
Tuesday night's forum at the Avista will take place at 7 p.m. at 300 North Ocean Drive. The forum will include a panel discussion and a question and answer session.
(taken from WMBFNews.com