Santee Cooper, Coastal Carolina University (CCU) and the South Carolina energy office will start offshore wind study by launching six weather buoys and two land-based stations that will measure wind speed, direction and frequency at stations up to six miles out into the ocean. One string of buoys begins at Georgetown, near an ongoing wind study at Winyah Bay; the second string begins at Waties Island, by Little River and near another ongoing wind study.
Buoy deployment could begin in middle March, 2009 depending on weather conditions. The buoy deployment will be followed by Santee Cooper’s installation of an offshore platform in about six months, near one of the buoy paths. CCU researchers, working closely with counterparts at North Carolina State University, will evaluate the buoy data to help pinpoint the best location for the platform, which will measure upper-level winds more similar to those a wind turbine would encounter. The offshore wind platform is expected to gather data for at least a year.
Costs associated with the buoy project are being paid by Santee Cooper and by a U.S. Department of Energy grant administered by the South Carolina energy office. Specifically, the grant money is helping fund CCU’s role in the buoy research. Santee Cooper will pay for the platform.
The project will gather data for at least the next 18 months.
“Santee Cooper believes that all reasonable renewable energy initiatives must be explored, and wind energy is a promising opportunity for South Carolina,” Santee Cooper President and Chief Executive Officer Lonnie Carter said. “As a public power company, Santee Cooper is committed to providing South Carolinians with affordable, reliable energy that is protective of our environment. We have been testing wind viability onshore for several years, and the experience has encouraged us to take this next important step.
“No power company in America is generating offshore wind energy, and very few are exploring its viability,” Carter continued. “Santee Cooper is the only public power company, in fact, that is working alongside leading state scientists to prove the viability of offshore wind as a source of electrical generation. And this project falls squarely in line with Santee Cooper’s goal to provide 40 percent of our energy by 2020 through non-greenhouse gas emitting resources, biomass fuels, conservation and energy efficiency.”
“Thanks to the expertise of our faculty, Coastal Carolina University has long been involved in many partnerships with public and private organizations on projects that positively influence the lives of people locally, regionally, around the state and internationally,” CCU President Dr. David A. DeCenzo said. “Under Paul Gayes’ direction, the University’s Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies will play a significant role in this historic venture. We are excited about this project and about the fact that our students will have a part in exploring the possibilities of developing wind energy as a viable source of renewable energy for South Carolina.”
South Carolina Energy Office Director John Clark said: “South Carolina continues to explore creative and innovative alternative energy solutions. This exciting new offshore wind energy project, in combination with the work that’s already been done over the last several years, has the potential to pave the way for a new clean energy resource with substantial potential for South Carolina.”
The buoys are provided by North Carolina state. The offshore project is the latest in a series of wind research initiatives involving several organizations in South Carolina. Others included in the project are Clemson University, the Savannah River National Laboratory, the University of South Carolina’s Baruch Research Institute, and EcoEnergy LLC.
There are no offshore wind installations anywhere in the US, and so there are many challenges still to resolve. Meanwhile, a group of state stakeholders will begin considering how to permit offshore wind turbines, and a separate group will be considering transmission needs. Federal permitting is also under development. This new research will continue to advance South Carolina’s wind energy deliberations while these other significant issues are tackled.