Wind power, one of the fastest-growing sources of energy around the world, is popular, not least because of its obvious abundance and because it provides many communities with a clean, local source of electricity, as opposed to imported fossil fuels. In the US – which recently passed Germany to become the country producing the most wind power – the Department of Energy recently estimated that wind power could account for 20 per cent of the nation’s electricity supply by 2030.
Currently wind accounts for just one per cent of the US’s electricity use. This figure is disappointingly low because there are two major obstacles: the wind simply does not blow all the time, (so backup power plants – often fueled by natural gas – are needed) and secondly, the wind sometimes blows the hardest in remote plains, far from cities that actually need the energy. That’s a geographical difficulty that may well be beaten by New York state soon however. The state’s Atlantic coastline is battered by winds which are just crying out to be harnessed and subsequently utilised by New York City and other nearby conurbations.
The state’s legislators, headed by Governor David A Paterson – a firm advocate of renewable energy – have recently published a draft energy plan which includes five major strategies: • Produce, deliver and use energy more efficiently • Support the development of in-State energy supplies • Invest in energy and transportation infrastructure to support policy objectives • Stimulate innovation in energy technologies to support the transition to a clean energy economy • Engage communities, local governments, neighboring states, and the federal government in energy-related activities
The plan paints a generally optimistic picture of the potential of wind to be a more meaningful and significant part of the Empire State’s energy mix, at a time when the notion of constructing wind farms in the sea is gaining significant momentum around the world. Placing turbines in the water is costly, but the advantage is that the wind blows much harder off the coasts and, unlike wind over the continent which often blows hardest at night, offshore breezes can be strong in the afternoon – commensurate with the time when people are actually using the most electricity