Wind is the world’s fastest-growing energy resource and also the source of plenty of controversy these days. In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, plans to build America’s first offshore wind farm are met with enthusiasm from the nation’s leading environmental groups and opposition from local residents including public figures like Robert Kennedy Jr. and Walter Cronkite.
Cape Wind Associates, the Boston-based company vying to be among the first to build offshore wind farms, plan to erect 130 windmills in Nantucket Sound, each towering higher than the Statue of Liberty. Opponents argue that wind turbines kill birds, are noisy, devalue property, and mar the natural beauty of the Sound.
Several international and national standards address some of the issues raised by the opposition. In the international standards arena, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) TC-88 subcommittee has taken the lead in the publication of wind energy standards. The IEC 61400 family of standards deals with everything wind turbine related, from wind turbine safety and design to noise measurement.
Working closely with the IEC is the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), an organization designated as the leader in the development and publication of industry consensus standards by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). AWEA often adopts IEC standards since the wind industry is more established and developed in parts of Europe.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provides AWEA with technical and financial support. AWEA, in turn, made a formal request to the U.S. Department of Energy to support the development of certification test capabilities at NREL. Today, the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC), a division of NREL, has a Certification Program that offers power performance testing, acoustic testing, loads testing, blade testing and operational testing. Quality tests and design evaluation will soon be offered. The program operates in compliance with ISO Guide 25, General requirements for the competence of calibration and testing laboratories, and tests to the most exacting international standards.
Other organizations consulted or directly involved in wind turbine standards development include the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society for Testing of Materials (ASTM), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the American Gear Manufacturer’s Association (AGMA), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – all ANSI members and accredited standards developers.
Wind turbines have come a long way from their water-pumping, corn-grinding windmill predecessors. New technology and standards help make these modern-day giants more productive, effective, economical and safe. Yet wind energy still makes up less than one percent of U.S. electricity generation.
As for the future of the Cape Cod offshore wind farm plan, it may be years before legal issues are settled. Should the plan succeed, it could mean 420 Megawatts of wind capacity per year, providing Cape Codders with 75 percent of their electricity and 1.8 percent of the total electricity needs of New England, without emitting a drop of pollution.