Climate change is one of the most pressing global issues of the twenty-first century. Since the advent of the industrial revolution (ca. 1750), anthropogenic activities have resulted in a substantial increase in atmospheric concentrations ofMoreClimate change is one of the most pressing global issues of the twenty-first century. Since the advent of the industrial revolution (ca.
1750), anthropogenic activities have resulted in a substantial increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG): carbon dioxide (CO²) from an approximate 280 parts per million (ppm) to a current 380 ppm- methane from 700 parts per billion (ppb) to 1700 ppb- and nitrous oxide from 270 ppb to 310 ppb. Scientific studies indicate that increasing amounts of GHG will result in a global greenhouse effect, warming the Earth an estimated 3-11º F by the end of the 21st Century.Atmospheric GHG increases are largely a result of energy activities, land-use changes, and deforestation, 4 with the first being, by-far, the most significant.
As of 2005, approximately 70 percent of total United States electric energy was generated from fossil fuels, a primary source of GHG. In combination with global environmental and climate concerns and the rapidly escalating cost of traditional fossil fuels (in hand with larger geopolitical considerations),6 a number of alternative energy sources are under development or consideration, including: geothermal, solar, ocean, biomass, and wind sources, among others.Of the various types of alternative energy sources, wind power is currently the most cost-competitive, as compared to traditional sources of electricity generation in the United States (i.e., coal and natural gas), 7 with average kilowatt-hour (kWh) costs being between 4 and 10 cents for onshore facilities and and 10 cents for offshore facilities, subject to the quality and consistency of the wind.8 Recognizing this emerging market, developers have begun to plan and develop coastal and offshore wind energy farms, the largest and best-known being Cape Wind Associates’ proposal for a 130 turbine facility off Massachusetts in Nantucket Sound, with another important proposal by Bluewater Wind for a wind farm off Delaware.In light of the enormous potential of the wind resource, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has recently released a report estimating that wind could supply 20% of the domestic electricity supply by 2030, with offshore resources providing a substantial percentage of this amount, especially for coastal states.
DOE specifically noted “26 of [of 28 coastal states] would have the wind resources to meet at least 20% of their electric needs, with many states having sufficient offshore wind resources to meet 100% of their electric needs. For most coastal states, offshore wind resources are the only indigenous energy source capable of making a significant energy contribution.”