Apr 132013

True, when we hear New Jersey, we don’t really think about the sun. We may think about the fake tan sported by certain individuals that have made it through unfortunate reality television but those are mostly chemically induced. I’m talking about the real sun. Well, it’s hard to believe but our own New Jersey is having a solar revival of sorts, with home solar panel installations that is. While western states still have the edge on large-scale energy production, state subsidies and an agreement between Home Depot and local Roof Diagnostics is creating an incredible surge in solar panel sales in New Jersey.

This may not be that surprising to some, since on February, New Jersey became the third state to join the exclusive 1 GW Solar Club, by installing some 20,340 solar projects with the capacity of a gigawatt (mostly within last three years).

Home solar panel installation in Manalapan, NJ

You may think, “Yes, there’s hope for America”. After all, if New Jersey can accomplish this (with a Republican governor), imagine what we can do once our lawmakers could see the long-term benefits of infrastructure investments. We might even restart competing with Germany and China on renewables (gasp). However, while we are dilly-dallying with important things like permits for those ugly wind turbines near residential areas, other European nations are already moving at full speed. Just this Wednesday, United Kingdom commissioned the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm: with 175 turbines.

Currently outputting a respectable 630 MW, the project is expected to produce close to a gigawatt of electricity at its peak. Meanwhile we are still discussing the most fashionable way of producing clean power. Luckily, some folks here in the US are aware of our offshore energy potential. In December, engineers from University of Maine started testing a floating wind turbine design off the coast of Maine.

While I’m certain that somebody with exceptionally unnecessary levels of spare time will find a problem with floating offshore wind turbines, the concept is particularly suitable for this side of the pond since our waters are too deep for traditional anchored turbines. There are a few technical issues regarding refitting our ports and transmission infrastructure, as well as economic/political ones for reducing the initial financial risks but DOE is cautiously optimistic. You can check out the detailed market analysis here.

The conclusion is that we have more work to do. It’s always the same. We always come up short. Let’s hope that we can get it together before it’s too late.

Any thoughts?

Evren U. Azeloglu, Ph.D.
Guest Blogger, ASME Met Section Executive Committee

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