A team of Stanford researchers set out to find answers in a recent study of the California coast and will present their research during a Dec. 13 poster session at this year's meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The poster is titled ''California Offshore Wind Energy Potential.''
Michael Dvorak, a Stanford doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering, joined Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Cristina Archer, consulting assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, in evaluating the potential for harvesting wind energy offshore in California.
''This is basically the first study that's a detailed look at places where we could develop offshore wind energy in California,'' Dvorak said. ''Some of the studies have looked at the wind speeds offshore, but they hadn't looked at the [water] depth and wind speeds at this high of resolution.''
Deeper water means higher costs for building wind turbines. Not only would it require more materials to reach the bottom and anchor the structures, but, as the water depth increases, so does the power of the waves constantly slamming into the turbine supports, Dvorak said.
Furthermore, most engineering research worldwide has been focused on building turbines in shallow water, like that of the North Sea in Europe, where all of the existing offshore wind parks are. Consequently, most available technology is geared toward building turbines in water less than 20 meters deep. Though wind speeds are usually higher further offshore, the study concluded it would likely be more economical to build in shallower water.
To assess wind speeds, the team employed computer models like those used by meteorologists to predict weather patterns. The researchers looked at wind speeds in 2005 and 2006 at locations along California's coast to estimate how much power could be generated annually.
Findings indicated that two of the three study areas are less than ideal for harvesting wind energy. Water depths of greater than 50 meters in the San Francisco Bay Area would require floating platforms, similar to those used for oil and gas exploration, but not yet developed for use in wind technology. In most of Southern California, the winds die down during the summer and thus would not generate a steady amount of power throughout the year.
The third study area the researchers looked at was a specific area in Northern California off Cape Mendocino. They found that a wind park at this site would supplant about 5 percent of California's electricity coming from carbon-emitting sources, Dvorak said. When combined with offshore wind energy at several other sites, it may be possible to produce between at least a quarter-and potentially all-of California's electricity.
Unfortunately, most transmission lines available to deliver power are in the southern part of the state, where winds are not as strong. But Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is looking into ocean wave-energy projects in Northern California, which also would require new transmission lines.
''There's a chance the wind and wave-energy projects could dovetail together and lower the transmission costs for both projects,'' Dvorak said.
A recent study authored by Archer and Jacobson and published in the November Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology examined ways to link wind farms to further exploit economies of scale and thereby reduce the cost of wind energy. Interconnecting multiple parks can offset the intermittent nature of wind and make it a more dependable source of energy, the authors said. And, like the wave-energy project, it would be cheaper to have an integrated set of transmission lines instead of separate connectors to each wind park.
Offshore wind farms have made headlines lately, as some residents of Cape Cod have argued that a potential Cape Wind project there would spoil their pristine view. A survey conducted earlier this year by Opinion Research Corp. found that, despite a vocal minority, 84 percent of all Massachusetts residents and 58 percent who live on or near Cape Cod support the Cape Wind project, Dvorak said.
''The proposed Cape Cod wind project, if it was built, would be the largest offshore wind park in the world,'' Dvorak said, noting smaller projects in Europe have been met with more support. Projects in Denmark, for example, began with one or two offshore turbines, he added. The proposed Cape Cod wind park calls for the construction of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound.
In informal conversations with people who live near Cape Mendocino, Dvorak said most people seemed willing to sacrifice their view to have an environmentally friendly source of power.
Still, he added, ''You would want to do a pretty extensive survey of the local population and the environment to see how they would be affected.''
Another limiting factor is the development of new technology. Under provisions of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the construction of ships and offshore equipment-both of which are needed to build the wind turbines-must be done in the United States, even though there are experienced crews and ships outfitted for this sort of work in Europe.
''You can't actually farm it out to a foreign vessel,'' Dvorak said. ''So the first offshore wind project of this type is going to incur a lot of extra cost.''
It would take seven to eight years before a wind park like the one in Northern California could start producing electricity, Dvorak said, given the required environmental considerations.
Louis Bergeron | EurekAlert!
Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging
25.10.2016 | Colorado State University
Did you know that infrared heating is an essential part of automotive manufacture?
25.10.2016 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
26.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences