ATLANTA – In an effort to make the country less dependent on foreign oil, experimental wind energy projects are underway at opposite ends of Georgia.
Although scientists have been exploring wind power for decades, wind energy technology still is in its infancy a quarter-century after the energy crisis of the 1970s, said Bill Bulpitt, senior research engineer for Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Initiative.
"There was a sense of urgency at that time," he said. "Sadly, 25 years later, we haven’t turned the corner … This country just has not done a very good job of taking care of its energy problem."
In northwestern Georgia, an alliance of the state’s electric cooperatives has erected a tower on top of Rocky Mountain near Rome, Ga., to measure wind speeds and directions.
The project will be conducted over the course of a year to determine whether the site is suitable for producing wind-generated power.
The North Georgia mountains are the only areas of the state where wind generation will work, said Michael Whiteside, president of Green Power EMC, which runs the renewable-energy program for 17 Georgia electric cooperatives.
But initial results from the first two months of the study are showing the area has slow wind speeds of 6 to 10 mph.
"You need higher speeds to put in large turbines," Whiteside said.
But off the coast of Savannah, Ga., the Atlanta-based Southern Co. is working with researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology on a similar study to determine the feasibility of offshore wind turbines.
There, the research platforms are showing much faster wind speeds _ 16 mph _ than in the north Georgia mountains, he said.
One advantage of developing wind-generated power in southeast Georgia is that it’s close to population centers. Location is one problem with existing wind-energy producers, such as turbines located in the plains of west Texas. Once electricity is produced there, it’s expensive to get the energy to customers, Bulpitt said.