Bulpitt said preliminary results at the research platforms off the Georgia coast are showing average wind speeds of 16 miles an hour.
In northwestern Georgia, an alliance of the state’s electric cooperatives has erected a tower atop Rocky Mountain, near Rome, to measure wind speeds and directions over the course of a year to determine whether the site is suitable for producing wind-generated power.
Hundreds of miles to the southeast, off the coast of Savannah, the Atlanta-based Southern Co. is working with researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology on a similar study of the feasibility of building wind turbines off shore.
Scientists have been exploring wind as a source of electricity for decades, part of an effort to move away from finite fossil fuels and invest in renewable sources, which also include solar energy and biomass.
But wind energy technology in the U.S. is still in its infancy more than a quarter century after the energy crisis of the 1970s, said Bill Bulpitt, senior research engineer with Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Initiative, which is overseeing the offshore project.
“There was a sense of urgency at that time,’’ he said. “(But) 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
America’s wind energy industry began in the mountain passes of California’s San Joaquin Valley and has spread to the nation’s midsection, notably the plains of West Texas. Bulpitt said that region has the sustained winds needed to turn the turbines. However, once the electricity is produced there, he said it’s expensive to get it to utility customers.
“The wires are a long way from anybody,’’ he said. “The good news about the southeastern corner of Georgia is it’s relatively close to population centers.’’
But then, the problem becomes finding places with enough wind. Michael Whiteside, president of Green Power EMC, which runs the renewable-energy program for 17 Georgia electric cooperatives, said the North Georgia mountains are the only areas of the state where wind generation will work.
And even then, results from the first two months of the study at Rocky Mountain are showing wind speeds of only 6 to 10 mph, he said.
“You need higher speeds to put in large turbines,’’ he said.
Although it looks like the site will be limited to smaller turbines, Whiteside said investing in wind power will be worthwhile for Green Power EMC. For one thing, customers aren’t lining up to buy renewable power through the 2-year-old program. Thus far, Green Power EMC has only been able to offer electricity produced from landfill gas, a biomass source.
While the Rocky Mountain wind project might help build support for Green Power EMC, the offshore experiment has a lot more potential. Bulpitt said preliminary results at the research platforms off the Georgia coast are showing average wind speeds of 16 miles an hour.
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