Recently there has been a lot of news about offshore wind power. The US government has released its long awaited federal regulations governing offshore wind farms, boosting the pace of activity in this sector and propelling it into the nations awareness and media spotlight (at least for a fortnight). As part of covering developments in this wind energy sector we are profiling some of the promising startups in the offshore wind energy sector.
The offshore wind resources of this country are very extensive. It has been calculated that US Offshore wind energy potential is over 1000-GW; this is a truly staggering figure. Some of the best offshore wind energy is fortuitously located very near to some of the nation’s largest population and power consumption centers, notably along the New England and Mid Atlantic seaboard, the Great Lakes, the Texas Gulf Coast and along some key portions of the West coast.
The five companies profiled in this post are spread out all over the country, from Washington, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas. Some of them have interesting proprietary technology or existing expertise while others are adept at putting very large offshore wind projects together. This is a very fast moving area and these five companies seem poised to emerge as players.
These companies are listed in alphabetic order below.
Deepwater Wind Has Deep Pockets and Is Securing Deals
Deepwater Wind, a well backed startup based in Hoboken, NJ is putting together some very large deals involving large sums of equity that it will raise. It has been selected by Rhode Island to develop a large $1.5 billion offshore wind project in federal waters lying off the state’s seaboard. In addition the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has chosen Garden State Offshore Energy (GSOE), which is a joint venture of PSEG Renewable Generation (a subsidiary of PSEG Global a large integrated energy company) and Deepwater Wind, as the preferred developer of a 350-megawatt wind farm off the coast of New Jersey.
Deepwater Wind utilizes proven, state-of-the-art “jacket” foundation technology that allows wind turbines to be cost-effectively deployed in water depths up to 150 feet as opposed to conventional monopole foundations common in European offshore wind farms and that are not suitable for sites that are in water deeper than around 60 feet (20 meters). Jacket foundation technology is the commonly used in the offshore oil and gas industries in waters as deep as 1000 feet.
The Rhode Island project will be completed in two phases. The first phase will be a 20 megawatt project in state water, with construction expected to begin in late 2010 and be completed in late June 2012. In Phase Two, Deepwater Wind will construct a utility-scale project in a separate location in deep water lying in federal waters that will be capable of producing 1.3 million megawatt-hours per year within three years of approval of Deepwater Wind’s application to the federal Mineral Management Service that controls leasing on federal waters.
“This agreement sets the stage for Rhode Island to be the leader in the emerging renewable energy industry in the Northeast, and brings us one step closer to increasing our use of renewable sources to generate 20 percent of our electricity needs,” said Governor Donald L. Carcieri. “With this agreement, we have set a clear timetable for the development including the construction of a major manufacturing facility at Quonset, bringing an estimated 800 high quality jobs to Rhode Island.”
Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company Is Pursuing Mobile Jackup Platforms for its Deep Water Wind Energy Strategy
Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company, a Seattle, Washington startup is focusing on developing large offshore renewable energy projects along the US coastal waters. It believes that fixed and not floating platforms are the way to go for developing offshore wind resources and proposes using the kind of mobile jack-up platform technology that is already in wide use in the offshore oil & gas industry and that can be installed in up to 250 feet of water depth. It is a low-risk, effective design. The platforms are designed to withstand Force 5 hurricanes.
The company is proposing to co-generate wave energy in addition to wind energy using Oscillating Water Column wave energy converters integrated into the legs of the platform. These make power from the air pushed up and down in the hollow and perforated legs by the passing waves. The addition of wave power to the platform significantly improves its overall power performance. Wave energy is predictable with 95% confidence up to 48 hours in advance, and up to 50% confidence 5 days in advance. Wave energy is much steadier and predictable than wind energy. This helps “firm up” the power generated by the platforms. If the wind drops suddenly the waves will continue providing some power to the grid for a while mitigating to some extent the loss of wind power.
Mackinaw Power Wants To Farm the Great Lakes for Their Wind
Mackinaw Power, LLC, a Michigan based startup is regionally focused on developing new renewable energy projects to provide power for the Great Lakes at competitive prices. Mackinaw Power, which was formed in early 2003, by acquired the assets of Bay Windpower. It has since been building upon the successes achieved by Bay Windpower, which in 2001 developed, constructed and operated the Great Lakes’ first privately financed commercial wind power project in Mackinaw City, Michigan. That Project secured Michigan’s first wind power purchase agreements, interconnection agreements, permits and regulatory approvals. More than 7 million kilowatt hours of new, zero-emissions electricity have been sold to renewable energy customers – reducing dependence on foreign and fossil fuels.
The great lakes region holds some promising offshore wind energy areas. In fact the winds over Lake Michigan are some of the strongest and steadiest in the country, rivaling those that fan the upper Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. It has been calculated that the offshore wind energy potential of Lake Michigan is equivalent to 180 large nuclear power plants. However these northern lakes pose some challenges to developers including being ice covered for some months of the year.
Principle Power Proposes Deep Water Floating Wind Platforms
Principle Power, a Seattle base startup is pursuing the development of deep-water offshore wind energy. It proposes developing wind farms in water that is too deep for current offshore wind turbines that are bolted onto fixed monopole foundations and are limited to ocean sites with a depth of under 20 meters ( about 60 feet). Deep-water offshore wind installations, to date, have not been feasible due to economic and technological limitations. Principle Power believes that it has the solution to these problems by leveraging technology developed for the gas and oil industries and coupling it to very large wind turbines designed for offshore high wind conditions. The oil & gas industries have long experience building deep water, stable, anchored floating platforms for drilling in deep water.
Principle Power’s enabling product, the WindFloat, is a floating foundation for wind turbines which enables siting independent of water depth, thus exploiting the world’s highest capacity wind resources.
Principle Power has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Energias de Portugal for the phased development of a deep-water offshore wind power project sited off the coast of Portugal using the WindFloat. Phase 1 of the 3 phase project will consist of the fabrication and installation of a single platform for technology demonstration purposes. Following the successful completion and assessment of the demonstration unit, phase 2 and phase 3 will consist of a pre-commercial and commercial deployment respectively, making use of shared infrastructure and development from previous phases.
Wind Energy Systems Technology Group Is Pursuing Wave Energy Co-Generation for its Wind Energy Platforms
Wind Energy Systems Technology Group a Texas based startup founded by Herman J. Schellstede (a noted Gulf Coast Marine Engineer) and Harold Schoeffler (a well respected Gulf Coast environmentalist), is successfully bridging the gap between traditional offshore oil and gas technology and nascent offshore renewable energy sources. It has been collecting meteorological data off of Galveston TX for a proposed offshore wind farm off that Texas coastal city.
Wind Energy Systems Technology Group is also, in partnership with Hydro Green Energy, LLC, exploring the potential to develop the world’s first hybrid offshore wind-hydrokinetic ocean current power projects. If fully developed as envisioned, Hydro Green Energy and W.E.S.T. will utilize the Gulf of Mexico’s wind and water currents to generate nearly 5,000 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity. Hydro Green Energy, LLC is a Texas-based renewable energy systems developer and integrator operating in the waterpower industry.
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