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Offshore wind farm could save $17m a year, forum told

Eugene Dean, chairman of Greenrock, addresses a forum on bringing offshore wind farming to Bermuda with Bruce Valpy, managing director and founder of BVG Associates (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Backers of renewable energy hope the cost savings from wind-generated electricity will attract support for bringing an offshore wind farm to the island.

The environmental charity Greenrock highlighted potential savings of $17 million a year at a forum held on Friday – calling for corporate and community donors to help finance an ongoing study of the island’s potential.

Greenrock has teamed up with the British engineering firm BVG Associates for a review of current research and the next steps the island needs to take.

But Chris Worboys of Greenrock said that completing feasibility surveys and drawing up a “road map“ for an offshore wind farm could run up costs from $180,000 to $230,000.

Mr Worboys said the charity hoped that wind farming’s anticipated 15 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, considerably lower than powering the island through fossil fuels, would drive local development of the industry.

“We’re doing what we can,” Mr Worboys told the forum at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, which was attended by about 30 people, including heads of green energy businesses on the island.

“So far as there are individuals and companies in Bermuda willing to help us with this journey to get this work done, we see it as a relatively small investment in Bermuda’s future just to finish these feasibility studies.”

Eugene Dean, chairman of Greenrock, added: “We see this as very important work. We just decided to get involved and do what we can.

“If everyone takes that kind of attitude, we can move it forward. This will take financial contribution.

“The main thing is, together we need to find the best way this can happen.”

Bruce Valpy, founder of BVG, joined Mr Worboys remotely to field questions at the public forum, where guests heard the island represented a comparatively small location for installing wind power – potentially with four turbines capable of generating 15 megawatts each.

Sixty megawatts would cover 40 per cent of the island’s present electricity needs.

The four-turbine option, with giant turbines, represented the most cost-effective model, Mr Valpy said.

“If you’re doing offshore wind, you have to do big,” he added. “It’s just far, far cheaper.”

Most wind farm developments would be considerably larger, Mr Valpy said, but the island could potentially piggyback the purchase of four turbines off a bigger project.

“It may well be possible for developers to be buying 100 turbines for a project in Europe and the US, and buy a few extra,” he said.

He told the forum that wind power technology developed for the Asian market, where offshore farms are subject to typhoons, meant turbines placed off Bermuda’s shores would be capable of withstanding hurricanes.

The turbines have been developed to withstand the salt and heat in locations such as South Vietnam, enabling a wind farm in Bermuda to weather the island’s salt corrosion.

Mr Valpy admitted the project came with environmental costs, saying a ten-metre foundation for a turbine on the sea floor would destroy coral and other life at its base.

But he said the structures themselves provided habitat for new life.

“What we are learning in a lot of markets is offshore wind farms can be bio-positive,” he said. “You get a lot of wildlife growing on those foundations.”

Whales have “not been particularly affected by wind turbines, but have been affected during the installation process”, he said, so their placement required careful timing.

Asked about the threat to bird life, he said: “There’s a lot of studies that show birds flying up between wind turbines.”

But he added that a detailed environmental impact study would “all come out way before anything is done”.

*This story has been corrected to say that the savings from wind-generated energy have been estimated at $17 million a year, not $70 million.

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Published July 25, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated July 25, 2022 at 11:04 am)

Offshore wind farm could save $17m a year, forum told

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