Editorial | Off-shore wind power development vital for future

07/26/2014 12:00 AM

07/24/2014 3:36 PM

The North Shore Wind Team may not be well-known to Grand Strand residents, but the team has done significant work to foster the development of ocean winds as a source of energy. In September, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is slated to identify the offshore sites available for wind power turbine towers. The BOEM announcement will be in North Myrtle Beach, recognizing the work of the city and the Wind Team.

Eventually, the ocean tracts will be available for lease to private sector firms for constructing towers for wind-powered turbines generating electricity. The city of North Myrtle Beach is in position as the logical location for transmission lines carrying electricity from the offshore towers to the onshore power grid. As reported by Steve Jones, the city’s transmission infrastructure can handle 300 megawatts of power. A megawatt is one millions watts. Generally, one megawatt represents the electricity for 1,000 homes, based on the capacity of Santee Cooper’s Winyah Generating Station in Georgetown.

The wind has been a source of power for thousands of years. Windmills were first developed in China and Persia (modern-day Iran) as early as 2000 B.C. Windmills still pump water for cattle in the western states. According to the Wind Energy Foundation, wind is the fastest-growing source of electricity. For example, giant wind turbines line miles and miles of Interstate 70 in Kansas. Power from offshore winds is an important part of the clean energy mix. Other clean sources are solar power and biofuels. These sources of power help reduce the use of fossil fuels, especially coal, to generate electricity. Coal remains less costly in generating electricity, but coal has environmental problems, including global warming.

Our offshore area has some of the most reliable winds along the eastern coast of the United States. Better winds blow offshore in the Northeast, but the ocean floor drops off more rapidly than along South Carolina. That’s problematic for potential offshore wind farms because they would be situated closer to the coast than would be the case here. Massachusetts opponents of wind turbine towers in their ocean views have prevented construction of a wind farm, off the coast of Nantucket, that has been licensed for 10 years.

The good news for potential area naysayers professing concern with the view: The gradual slope of the ocean floor off the Carolinas means the turbines can be 10 or more miles from Grand Strand beaches – possibly visible as points on the horizon on clear days.

In many meetings and public hearings in recent years, little opposition has been voiced, says Wind Team member Marc Jordan, CEO of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce. The chamber helped intiate the Wind Team with an eye on the need for clean energy and the potential for jobs and economic growth. Jordan feels North Myrtle Beach is “probably the only East Coast community doing this from the ground up.” Another Wind Team member is Paul Gayes, director of the Center for Marine and Wetlands Studies at Coastal Carolina University. He says the local effort in preparing for wind power is typically state-led.

Thanks to the efforts of the North Shore Wind Team, and other forward thinkers in the city, North Myrtle Beach may be a center for wind power in the not-too-distant future. Electricity from offshore ocean winds is in the future; the only question is how soon.

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