Southern Co., Tech Partner on Wind Power Project
Southern Company and the Georgia Institute of Technology announced today that they will collaborate on the Southeast's first offshore wind power project off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. The announcement was made during a press conference at Georgia Tech.
The goal of the project is to determine if offshore wind power is a feasible and efficient renewable energy option for power generation. The project concept is expected to include three to five wind turbines that could generate 10 megawatts of power, enough to power about 2,500 homes.
"We remain interested in finding viable renewable energy options that can play a part in meeting the growing demands of our customers," said David Ratcliffe, president, chairman and CEO of Southern Company. "Our partnership with Georgia Tech presents us a unique opportunity to assess offshore wind power as a cost-effective option for generating power in our region."
The first step of the project, a design and conceptual engineering phase, will be conducted starting in July using technical expertise from both Georgia Tech and Southern Company. The first phase of the project will evaluate various technology options for wind turbines, platforms/foundations, submarine cabling and grid interconnection. Detailed analyses of a site location and environmental regulations and jurisdictions, including permitting requirements, will also be determined.
The project is a continuation of research conducted by Georgia Tech's Strategic Energy Initiative, a research group devoted to testing both the scientific and economic feasibility of innovative energy technologies. The research was funded with a National Science Foundation grant focused on innovative energy options in the coastal Georgia region.
"To win in the competitive marketplace of the 21st century, our energy solutions must offer value that makes them worth the cost," said Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough. "We are enthusiastic about working with a long-time partner in the Southern Company to develop an energy source that is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly."
Though many discounted the Southeast as a possible site for offshore wind turbines, the Georgia Tech group, lead by Dr. Sam Shelton, was able to prove that there may be enough wind for power generation by analyzing six years of wind data collected from Navy platforms located off the coast of Savannah. The strong westerlies that blow along Georgia's coastal waters coupled with the technological advances seen in the last few decades make this offshore region the best site for an offshore wind demonstration project.
In addition to its plentiful wind, the area is also ideal for offshore wind because of its extensive amount of shallow water at distances beyond the shoreline view, which could reduce building costs and avoid the challenges of building and operating wind turbines in deep-water.
The project also has the potential to be the first offshore wind project completed in the United States. There are only two other planned U.S. offshore wind projects, one near Fire Island and Long Island off the coast of New York and another between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts - but both are much larger than the Southern Co./Georgia Tech project and neither has been approved.
Southern Company has invested more than $6 million over the last five years in renewable energy technologies, such as evaluating wind, solar and biomass as possible options. The company has successfully tested switchgrass as a biomass fuel, as well as expanded research into biomass for power generation by testing a gasification process, which has the potential to be cost-competitive when compared with other forms of renewable energy.
With more than 4 million customers and nearly 39,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier super-regional energy company in the Southeast and a leading U.S. producer of electricity. Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states, a growing competitive generation company and a competitive retail natural gas business, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are 15 percent below the national average. Southern Company has been ranked the nation's top electric utility in the American Customer Satisfaction Index six years in a row. Southern Company has more than 500,000 shareholders, making its common stock one of the most widely held in the United States.