Kempton addressed an audience of more than 150.
Here he explains that the massive size of wind turbines
helps them take advantage of stronger winds high above
the ocean. Photo by Tammy Beeson
When Don Taber arrived at the University of Delaware’s Wilmington Lunch and Lecture event presented by the UD College of Marine and Earth Studies (CMES) and the Delaware Sea Grant College Program in late February, he had lots of questions on his mind about the day’s topic, offshore wind energy in Delaware.
“I keep reading, ‘Yeah, it’s good,’ ‘No, it’s bad,’” said Taber, a Wilmington resident with an engineering background. “I had questions about it.”
But a lecture that touched on all aspects of offshore wind energy — from its role in mitigating climate change to turbine manufacturing and installation — helped answer many of his questions.
UD Associate Professor of Marine Policy Willett Kempton spoke to a capacity crowd at the event, held at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington. He kicked off his lecture with a discussion of the benefits of alternative energy. He cited reducing dependence on foreign energy supplies and avoiding the negative health impacts of power plant emissions among the benefits.
But for Kempton, who has devoted his career to energy and environmental topics, the No. 1 motivator is climate change.
“The biggest problem as I see it is climate change, and to deal with that is going to take a 60 to 80 percent reduction in carbon dioxide within the next 40 to 60 years,” he said.
Delaware, he explained, is poised to help with this problem. UD researchers using wind data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoys have determined that the winds off the mid-Atlantic coast would be more than enough to supply a carbon-free energy source not only for the state, but for the mid-Atlantic region as well.
“This offshore wind resource is huge,” he said, explaining that excluding shipping lanes, bird flyways, and other ocean areas being used for other purposes, there’s room enough for 5,300 5-megawatt turbines off the Delaware coast.
That doesn’t mean the state should or has to develop all of that area, Kempton said. But if the state tapped the resource completely, the more than 5,000 turbines would create an average output of 7,000 megawatts, far more than the average amount of energy used in the state, which is 1,300 megawatts.
“Delaware’s entire fleet of (existing) power plants, if they were all running at the same time, would produce 3,300 megawatts,” Kempton said. “An offshore wind resource, on average production, is over twice that.”
The state could sell the extra power to utilities in the region with estimated revenue of about $2 billion a year.
Kempton helped put the size of the resource in perspective by discussing the proposed Delaware offshore wind farm under negotiation between Bluewater Wind LLC and Delmarva Power & Light. It would be a 450-megawatt installation with 150 turbines and would provide about 13 percent of Delware’s electricity. The size of that project would use only about 2 percent of the state’s offshore wind resource, he said.
Emphasizing that helping reduce carbon emissions in the next 50 years is a key motivator for the UD research team focusing on wind energy, Kempton went on to discuss the possibility of offshore wind power for the entire East Coast region. He said that building more than 50,000 turbines — which could be done efficiently even by World War II production standards — would more than meet the electricity needs of U.S. East Coast states.
“My question is, have we ever built 54,000 really large steel structures with propellers on them?” he asked the audience, turning to a presentation slide with an image of a 1942 airplane production plant. “We need 54,000 (turbines). We could do that in four years if the United States decided to ramp up to a World War II production scale.”
The problem of global warming is definitely something that can be dealt with, he concluded.
“We know how to do it,” he said. “We know where the resource is. We know how much it costs, and the United States has done something like this before.”
Watch Kempton's complete one-hour lecture here.
Learn more about offshore wind power research at UD by visiting www.ocean.udel.edu/windpower or by visiting www.ocean.udel.edu and clicking on News.
The next Wilmington Lunch and Lecture will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 3. UD Professor of Oceanography Jonathan Sharp will present his lecture, “Delaware River and Bay Health: History and Implications.” The event includes lunch at the award-winning Hotel du Pont located at 11th and Market Streets in Wilmington. Tickets are $15, and advance registration is required by Friday, March 28, 2008. Reserve your seat by calling 302-831-8062 or e-mailing MarineCom@udel.edu.
To learn more about the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, visit www.deseagrant.org. For more about UD’s College of Marine and Earth Studies, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.