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Offshore wind farms are coming to the U.S., the Department of Energy (DOE) announced this month, but nobody is sure just when.
Eleven offshore wind projects have reached "an advanced stage of development," according to the 2013 U.S. Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis, published earlier this month by Navigant Consulting. The farms would collectively generate 3,824 megawatts (MW) of energy. Parties involved in the projects have all signed a power purchase agreement, received approval for an interim or commercial lease in state or federal waters, or conducted baseline or geophysical studies at a proposed site.
A map of proposed offshore wind projects in the U.S. Graphic credit: Navigant Consulting
The report shows that cost-competitiveness, regulatory processes and a lack of infrastructure—including offshore transmission and purpose-built ports and vessels—as the main deterrents to offshore development. Still, the Atlantic Wind Connection and New Jersey Energy Link are two transmission infrastructure projects that made progress in the past year, according to the report.
Though no offshore wind farms currently exist in the country, the DOE has committed more than $300 million to the development of 72 offshore wind projects. Most of the funding was approved in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, though the DOE in 2006 began issuing $2.5 million to Bowling Green State University to research and remove impediments for deploying wind turbines on Lake Erie.
Graphic credit: U.S. Department of Energy
The average size of the turbines in the advanced projects is just over 4 MW, which is larger than most that are on shore.
"This trend toward larger turbines will likely continue, driven by advancements in materials, design, processes and logistics, which allow larger components to be built with lower system costs," the report reads. "The United States is largely planning to utilize larger offshore turbines rather than smaller turbines that have previously been installed in European waters."
The DOE also released information about various wind-farm studies that agencies and universities are collaborating on, ranging from interconnection to environmental surveys and electromagnetic interference mitigation. For example, the DOE, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service and a host of private companies have been working on the Wind Forecast Improvement Project, which seeks to upgrade short-term weather forecast models for predicting foundational weather parameters that impact wind energy generation. A final report is expected by December.
Here are more key findings from Navigant:
- There are approximately 5.3 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind installations worldwide
- Offshore wind projects around the world are trending further from shore into increasingly deeper waters, leading to higher capital costs
- Approaches to drivetrain configurations continue to diversify in an effort to improve reliability and reduce exposure to volatile supplies of the rare earth metals required for direct drive generators.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
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- More research is needed to know what this means for people who vape.
- Other research has shown that vaping can cause damage to lung tissue.
A new study found that long-term exposure to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor increases the risk of cancer in mice.
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By Caroline Hickman
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