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Government wants feedback on floating wind farms at sea

CHARLESTON –The government wants to know what people think about generating energy from wind, currents and waves off the S.C. coast.

The idea is to harvest energy from wind and water turbines and send the power back to shore through cables.

The greatest potential for wind energy is beyond three miles off the coast, outside state territorial waters, said John Clark, a spokesman for the state Energy Office.

While some people may not like to see a field of spinning wind turbines offshore, in Europe, such turbines are tourist attractions, Clark said.

Wave energy converters generate power by capturing the constant up-and-down motion of waves. Moored to the sea floor, the converters bob at the surface, resembling a small fleet of fishing boats.

Another way to generate power is with other turbines located beneath the surface, where steady currents spin propellers.

The U.S. Department of Interior Minerals Management Service is holding a public hearing Thursday to hear what people think of its Outer Continental Shelf alternative energy development program.

The program will allow companies interested in developing ocean energy learn how the government will regulate the budding industry by issuing leases and easements.

Offshore wind farms are also beautiful and have little environmental impact, said Nicholas Rigas, director of the South Carolina Institute for Energy Studies at Clemson University.

“It beats a coal plant in my mind,” he said. “It’s definitely a technology that’s coming on strong.”

While the energy is free, getting it to customers is the challenge. “It’s very expensive,” said Laura Varn, a spokeswoman for Santee Cooper.

The Associated Press


2 May 2007