November 8, 2009

Photo Simulation Shows Wind Turbines Off the Carolina Coast

Large wind turbines would be clearly visible two miles off the Carolina coast but would all but disappear into the haze eight miles out to sea, a new photo simulation shows.

Clemson's South Carolina Institute for Energy Studies created the simulation as part of Santee Cooper's research into the viability of building a wind farm off the Grand Strand.

The visual impact of the wind turbines has been a major hurdle for some projects in the United States and Europe.

"We think it's important to give people an idea of what it looks like," said Marc Tye, Santee Cooper's vice president of conservation and renewable energy. "We want people to form opinions based on the facts."

Earlier this summer, Santee Cooper and Coastal Carolina University placed two strings of buoys off the Grand Strand to measure winds. One was at the north end near North Myrtle Beach; the other was at the south end, closer to Debordieu Beach.

Based on data captured by these buoys, Santee Cooper will build a tower to capture wind measurements at heights of more than 220 feet, slightly less than the height of a typical offshore wind turbine. Santee Cooper recently received proposals from five companies and is expected to award the design contract within a week. In all, the wind measurement tower will cost about $1 million. Tye said construction of the tower should start in early 2010.

Meanwhile, Clemson researchers used special software designed to show what large turbines would look like at various distances. One photo shows how a 12-turbine wind farm seven miles off the coast of Little River would appear under blue skies. In that photo, the turbines look like small white straws sticking up from the ocean.

A second photo shows what a wind farm would look like 8.7 miles off the coast of Debordieu on a cloudier day. In these conditions, the towers all but vanish into the haze. A third photo shows towers at distances ranging from two to eight miles.

The distance issue is important because it may be less expensive to build and maintain a wind farm closer to shore. At the same time, winds tend to be stronger farther offshore, which means they may generate more power, Tye said

"The problem is not whether (a wind farm) can be done," Tye said. "It's whether it can be done cost-effectively." He added that "so far we haven't seen anything yet that rules it out, and that in itself is progress."

Santee Cooper's project is part of a surge in interest in wind power in South Carolina. Another notable wind project involves a consortium led by Clemson's Restoration Institute. The group is vying with several states for a $45 million grant to build a national offshore turbine testing lab at the former Navy base. The grant is expected to be announced soon and could be a magnet for wind-manufacturing industries.

Post and Courier Article
Santee Cooper Press Release (article basis)
Wind Turbine Photo

Photos Downloaded from Santee Cooper with the accompanying descriptions (click to enlarge):

Figure 1 North
This photo illustration shows how a 12-turbine wind farm off the coast of Little River might appear from a public beach in northern Horry County. The distance from shore to turbines is about 7.3 miles. Different light, wind and haze conditions could make them more or less visible.

Figure 2 South
This photo simulation compares the visibility of wind turbines placed at varying distances from shore. Specifically, the turbines are depicted at distances, left to right, of 2 miles, 3 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles, 6 miles, 7 miles and 8 miles from the shore. Different light, wind and haze conditions could make them more or less visible.

Figure 3 Composite
This photo simulation shows how a 40-MW wind farm placed off the coast of Winyah Bay could appear from Debordieu, the closest populated area to the Winyah Bay and about 8.7 miles from the hypothetical wind farm. The turbines are placed to match light and wind conditions at the time of the photo, which in this case decreased visibility. Different light, wind and haze conditions could make them more or less visible

**First ocean wind turbine project in the United States to be conducted in the Outer Banks. Information on the project from Campus Technology & Reuters

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