Is there potential in N.H. offshore wind generation?

Offshore wind turbines could one day supply four-fifths of New Hampshire's energy supply, according to a report released by the National Wildlife Federation.

But Public Service of New Hampshire spokesperson Martin Murray thinks it's "highly unlikely" that such a scenario would ever develop.

The NWF report, released by Environmental America, lists no offshore wind development projects for New Hampshire, the state with the smallest coastline. The Granite State only accounts for three paragraphs in the 54-page report, the "Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy."

The only offshore wind activity cited for the state is the University of New Hampshire's Center for Ocean Renewable Energy receiving a $700,000 Department of Energy Grant in 2009 to participate in the DeepCWind consortium led by the University of Maine.

Most of the other states in the report do have offshore projects in the permitting process.

The report says the Atlantic coastline has some 1,300 gigawatts of energy generation potential. Harnessing 52 gigawatts would power 14 million U.S. homes, while creating $200 billion in new economic activity, the report claims.

According to the report, New Hampshire's wind resources within 50 nautical miles of the coast amount to 3.4 gigawatts, and that would have satisfied 81 percent of the state's electricity needs in 2000. The state's renewable energy law calls for a quarter of the state's power to be from renewable sources by 2025.

PSNH has been purchasing wind power from land-based generators, but — for instance — the dozen or so generators in Lempster only produced a total of 24 megawatts, which translates into about 8 megawatts of actual electricity, because the wind doesn't blow all the time.

The Seabrook nuclear power plant has a capacity of 1,400 megawatts, or 1.4 gigawatts, Murray said.To generate 3.4 gigawatts of electricity, Murray said, you would need more than 1,000 turbines off the coast of New Hampshire. The proposed Cape Wind project off the Massachusetts coast, which has drawn a firestorm of opposition, would have about 130."It strikes me as highly unlikely that an offshore wind development of that size would happen off of New Hampshire," Murray said. "But there is certainly the potential for wind power as part of a diverse comprehensive policy."

"Do you listen to the utility that has a vested interest in fossil fuel?" countered Environmental America's spokesperson Johanna Neumann, referencing PSNH's coal plant in Bow.

Neumann added that next generation of wind turbine would be taller, faster and with cutting-edge technology, enabling it to produce more power. ."Fundamentally, what is New Hampshire energy future going to be: coal-fired plants that contribute to global warming and health problems using a resource that is mined in other states, or clean renewable energy that will put more local people to work installing wind turbines?" she said.

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