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Palmetto Wind Power Project launched

March 9, 2009

The Palmetto Wind Research Project, a collaborative project by Santee Cooper, Coastal Carolina University and the South Carolina Energy Office to study the possibilities of generating wind energy off the coast, was officially launched March 9 with a ceremony in Georgetown. In the coming weeks, a series of wind-measuring weather buoys will be placed off the coastline at Winyah Bay near Georgetown and Waites Island near Little River, a significant step that positions South Carolina as a leader in the rapidly developing national wind energy landscape.

The University's Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies is playing a major role in the project. Six buoys and two land-based stations will measure wind speed, direction and frequency at stations up to six miles out into the ocean. One string of buoys begins at Georgetown, near an ongoing wind study at Winyah Bay; the second string begins at Waties Island, by Little River and near another ongoing wind study. Buoy deployment could begin in mid-March, depending on weather conditions.

The buoy deployment will be followed by Santee Cooper's installation of an offshore platform in about six months, near one of the buoy paths. Coastal Carolina University researchers, working closely with counterparts at North Carolina State University, will evaluate the buoy data to help pinpoint the best location for the platform, which will measure upper-level winds more similar to those a wind turbine would encounter. The offshore wind platform is expected to gather data for at least a year.

"Thanks to the expertise of our faculty, Coastal Carolina University has long been involved in many partnerships with public and private organizations on projects that positively influence the lives of people locally, regionally, around the state and internationally," said David A. DeCenzo, president of the University. "Under Paul Gayes' direction, the University's Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies will play a significant role in this historic venture. We are excited about this project and about the fact that our students will have a part in exploring the possibilities of developing wind energy as a viable source of renewable energy for South Carolina."

Costs associated with the buoy project are being paid by Santee Cooper and by a U.S. Department of Energy grant administered by the South Carolina Energy Office. Specifically, the grant money is helping fund Coastal Carolina University's role in the buoy research. Santee Cooper will pay for the platform.

"Santee Cooper believes that all reasonable renewable energy initiatives must be explored, and wind energy is a promising opportunity for South Carolina," said Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper president and chief executive officer. "As a public power company, Santee Cooper is committed to providing South Carolinians with affordable, reliable energy that is protective of our environment. We have been testing wind viability onshore for several years, and the experience has encouraged us to take this next important step.

"No power company in America is generating offshore wind energy, and very few are exploring its viability," Carter continued. "Santee Cooper is the only public power company, in fact, that is working alongside leading state scientists to prove the viability of offshore wind as a source of electrical generation. And this project falls squarely in line with Santee Cooper's goal to provide 40 percent of our energy by 2020 through non-greenhouse gas emitting resources, biomass fuels, conservation and energy efficiency."

John Clark, director of the South Carolina Energy Office, said: "South Carolina continues to explore creative and innovative alternative energy solutions. This exciting new offshore wind energy project, in combination with the work that's already been done over the last several years, has the potential to pave the way for a new clean energy resource with substantial potential for South Carolina."

The buoys are provided by N.C. State. The offshore project is the latest in a series of wind research initiatives involving several organizations in South Carolina. In addition to the partners in this offshore project, stakeholders include Clemson University, the Savannah River National Laboratory, the University of South Carolina's Baruch Research Institute, and EcoEnergy LLC. There are no offshore wind installations anywhere in the United States, and so there are many challenges still to resolve.

The two projects announced March 9 will gather data for at least the next 18 months. Meanwhile, a group of state stakeholders will begin considering how to permit offshore wind turbines, and a separate group will be considering transmission needs. Federal permitting is also under development. This new research will continue to advance South Carolina's wind energy deliberations while these other significant issues are tackled.

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