One of the primary justifications of industrializing our ocean waters with wind turbines is that the effects of climate change will purportedly be reduced by these renewable energy sources. However, each renewable energy source must be examined on its own merits; both the benefits and risks of each energy source should be analyzed.

If we are going to objectively answer the question – Will this renewable energy source assist in reducing the effects climate change? – we need to ascertain whether the use of offshore wind energy will result in a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

As a brief aside, greenhouse gas emissions mostly comprise carbon dioxide, produced in part by human fossil-fuel combustion. Those fossil fuels are coal, natural gas, and oil.

The problem is, in order for offshore wind energy to make sense, it must be sufficiently reliable/consistent to meet electricity demands. In other words, over a given period of time, how much of that time will the turbines be rotating? How much of that time will they actually be producing energy? If they are only producing energy from the wind for a certain, relatively small percentage of time, then we are compelled to utilize another energy source (typically fossil fuels) to meet the electricity need.

An accurate, useful way of directly measuring the effectiveness of a renewable energy source is by calculating its “capacity factor.” The capacity factor is formally defined as the ratio of actual energy produced to the hypothetical maximum energy possible. Practically, this means, “How consistent or reliable is this energy source?” To give an example, if you place a solar panel project in the cloudiest place on Earth, the capacity factor will be extremely low for an obvious reasons: the solar panels will be incapable of producing energy the vast majority of the time. In fact, solar and wind energy are among the most fickle, and unreliable sources of renewable energy. Wind simply does not blow at strong enough magnitudes or for long enough periods in most places to provide an excellent energy source.

And this is reflected in the capacity factors. The United States wind energy capacity factor average is a mere 35%.

If we look at capacity factor values for offshore wind energy in the New Jersey and New York Bight, they average around 32%. This is not very good at all, because it means that most of the time, we will need a supplement/adjunct, back-up, likely fossil fuel based energy source.

So the question then becomes: if we’re doing all this work to industrialize our oceans, build wind projects, all for the promise/under the guise of “solving global warming,” will offshore wind actually provide a benefit of reducing greenhouse gases versus having a 100% fossil fuel based energy source? The answer, according to the literature is that, due to wind’s intermittent nature, the capacity factor has to be greater than about 33% for there to be a net reduction in CO2 emissions.

Basically, if the wind capacity factor is not greater than 33%, you are not going to observe any net reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, which again, is the supposed goal (to mitigate the effects of climate change). Based upon a review of the wind power capacity factor estimates for offshore wind energy for New Jersey, the average of those estimates amounts to 32%. In other words, there will likely be no benefit.

“Destroying the ocean in order to save humanity from climate change” — but we’re not saving anything. We’re failing to induce a net reduction of greenhouse gases, while contemporaneously assaulting marine and human ecosystems with devastating noise levels, among other negative effects.

Conclusion? Rather than wasting time, energy, and tax-payer money pursuing an ineffective offshore wind strategy, let’s consider renewable energies that are not only efficacious in reducing emissions, but also safe for our invaluable, beautiful marine life.

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