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 o
|Contact: Louis Bergeron|