Offshore wind in Texas and the curious case of Massachusetts

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 7, 2010 2:14 pm

My latest article in Earth Magazine co-authored by Michael Webber is now available online. Here’s an excerpt:

Picture 11Humans have harnessed wind energy throughout history for milling, pumping and transportation — in a way you could say it’s the “original” form of industrial energy. But only recently have we built massive, powerful turbines to convert that wind into electricity. As concerns about pollution, carbon emissions, resource depletion and energy security mount, wind farms are an increasingly attractive alternative for meeting growing energy demand.

Unlike many other “solutions,” capturing the wind’s potential emits no hazardous wastes or greenhouse gases, and is an inexhaustible energy source. A boom in development has also created thousands of new jobs during a period when most industries are letting workers go. In 2009 alone, the American wind power industry grew by 39 percent and now accounts for 2 percent of electricity produced in the United States. The total resource in the U.S. central wind corridor could satisfy our total demand for electricity. In the last year, although many renewable technologies have taken a hit as the global economy continued to struggle, wind power — especially offshore wind power — seemed to do all right.

Offshore wind projects are particularly attractive because coastal wind tends to blow more reliably than onshore winds, especially in times of greater demand, such as hot summer afternoons. In addition, a significant fraction of the U.S. population lives near the coasts, so coastal wind farms are close to demand centers, obviating the need for transmission lines that are hundreds or thousands of kilometers long. Ideal conditions involve relatively shallow water, low wave heights and high-speed winds. Development has been rapid, but not uniform because each state must work within its own governance framework to establish the institutions to support them. In 2010, things have progressed in intriguing ways in Massachusetts and Texas, two states with very different perspectives on energy.

Read our full piece here

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Energy, Environment
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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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