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South Carolina utility to apply for DOE offshore met tower grant

Santee Cooper expects to submit an application for a US Energy Department (DOE) grant to help finance installation of a meteorological tower off the coast of South Carolina, a possible first step toward an eventual wind farm there, Molly Gore, a utility spokeswoman tells Recharge.

The submission deadline in 30 May, with DOE scheduled to award any grants for this project and others on 1 September. The tower could cost $4m.

The electric utility, the largest in South Carolina and owned by the state, is looking at possible foundations for the tower. To help with this task, it awarded a contract to Ocean and Coastal Consultants (OCC), a division of Denmark’s COWI.

A location off the City of Georgetown along the coast has been identified for the tower, but Gore was not certain if it would be set in bottomlands owned by the state or federal government. The first 3 miles (4.8km) from shore on the outer continental shelf are under South Carolina’s jurisdiction.

“We are trying to keep things going forward,” she says, referring to assessment of offshore conditions that could allow wind energy development. Cost considerations will continue to play a major role in guiding the utility’s moves offshore and it is proceeding cautiously.

Santee Cooper was part of a consortium that placed six buoys in the Atlantic Ocean – off Myrtle Beach and Winyah Bay – in July 2009. They gathered data during 14 months on wind speeds, and current, wave and other oceanographic information.

Carolina Coastal University, Clemson University, University of South Carolina and DOE’s Savannah River National Laboratory filled out the consortium. This research and data from other sources has increased awareness of the state’s wind resource and near-shore maritime conditions.

State officials have encouraged both public and private shareholders to further explore the possibilities of harnessing offshore wind energy. To that end and with help from a DOE grant, South Carolina formed a Regulatory Task Force for Coastal Clean Energy in April 2009.

The task force since then has made progress to identify issues and potential regulatory barriers to developing this resource. Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, has also been supportive as part of a broader state effort to reduce dependence on coal for 40% of its electricity generation.