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Mar 092009

From Green Right Now Reports

South Carolina is the latest state to target the harvesting of offshore winds for future energy needs. A partnership of Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric and water utility, along with Coastal Carolina University and the South Carolina Energy Office plans to launch weather buoys that will measure wind off the coast of Georgetown and Little River, S.C. as a first step in what could become an offshore wind farm.

The buoy deployment, which could begin later this month, will be followed by Santee Cooper‘s installation of an offshore platform in about six months, project officials said. Coastal Carolina researchers, working closely with counterparts at North Carolina State University, will evaluate the buoy data to help pinpoint the best location for the platform. The offshore wind platform is expected to gather data for at least a year.

Currently there are no offshore wind installations anywhere in the United States, and there are many challenges still to resolve. The two projects announced today 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,” Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper president and chief executive officer, said in a stement. “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.

State officials must still determine how to permit offshore wind turbines, and a separate group will be considering transmission needs. Federal permitting is also under development.

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. Grant money is helping fund Coastal Carolina‘s role in the buoy research. Santee Cooper said it will pay for the platform.

“No power company in America is generating offshore wind energy, and very few are exploring its viability,” Carter said. “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.”