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United States

Southeast does have potential

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Two new projects are chipping away at the decades old perception that wind power cannot be developed in the American Southeast, where good wind sites are rare and state policies to promote renewables are lacking. A coastal approach may be the trick.

The discovery has been made by Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), the major regulated utility under the FPL Group, which is making progress on a coastal wind project in St Lucie County. The project is now expected to include ten turbines with a total output of around 20 MW. As recently as the fall, company spokeswoman Sharon Bennett said FPL favoured installation of just one turbine before moving into multiple units. The St Lucie County project would be the first commercial scale wind power in Florida.

FPL says the strongest winds in the state are found on the coastline, a fact also being observed northwards to the state of South Carolina where the state-owned utility Santee Cooper partnered with two universities for possible development of a single-turbine commercial plant. With the utility's backing, Clemson University and Coastal Carolina University are pursuing research and development of commercial scale wind tapping coastal winds.

Wind measurements are being taken at Waties Island in Horry County, an undeveloped barrier island on the coast near the North Carolina border. A new research centre for renewable energy will be built on property behind the barrier island and the plan is to install commercial scale turbines there.

Nicholas Rigas, director of Clemson's Institute for Energy Studies, says the team is modelling turbines ranging from 330 kW to 1.5 MW in size. "A transition from offshore to the coast is not well understood. We hope to gain a better understanding of this transitional area through such studies as well as provide the data needed for installing turbines," he says.

Data from Waties Island looks very promising, Rigas says. A second tower installed at an inland location in North Charleston confirms considerably lower onshore wind speeds. The measurement program is also having a positive spin-off effect. "We feel that using the research institutions as demonstration sites for wind power in the state of South Carolina will gain better support from the public rather than a developer or utility company pushing wind power," says Rigas. "This has definitely been the case."

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