Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Recycling oil rigs for renewables

Old, unused oil drilling structures are being repurposed to build the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. When a drilling site is depleted, the platforms return to land. But a company called Wind Energy Systems Technology (WEST) plans to take those floating platforms about ten miles out from Galveston, Texas and affix wind turbines to them. The first platform carrying wind monitoring equipment has already been launched. As Wired.com put it,

"The flower of sustainable energy is blooming in oil country. Get ready for the Great Texas Wind Rush."
The founders of WEST certainly make an odd couple by traditional standards. Harold Schoeffler owns a Cadillac dealership and is Chair of the local Sierra Club chapter. Herman Schellstede has spent his life designing oil platforms, drilling rigs, and pipelines. But really, what better pair to epitomize the innovation and the collaboration needed to develop clean, renewable, homegrown energy?

The WEST project is expected to commercialize offshore wind power much sooner than more established and better funded projects, thanks to a
forward-thinking commissioner at the Texas General Land Office who fast-tracked the approval process. WEST is expected to deliver 150 MW of power (about 50 turbines), with the first test turbine to start spinning sometime this summer. The project should be completed by 2008.

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