Mary Tutwiler

Energy blowing in the wind

by Mary Tutwiler

With a new green initiative as part of the Obama administration’s plan for sustainable energy, wind power looks like a breath of fresh air. However, a new study, released last week by regional transmission organizations, says it could cost $50 billion to $80 billion to upgrade the electrical transmission grid to accommodate wind power, according to the Times Picayune. Those figures are the cost of adding up to 15,000 miles of new extra-high-voltage lines to the regional power grid east of the Rocky Mountains. That figure does not cover the $700 billion cost of building wind farms. Currently the Southwest Power Pool, which handles transmission issues for utilities in Louisiana and nearby states, has not had an application from wind harvesting businesses in Louisiana.

Despite the cost, wind entrepreneur Herman J. Schellstede, CEO of Wind Energy System Technologies, in New Iberia, has been pushing to build wind farms offshore in Louisiana for years. New Orleans utility company Entergy, however, according to the TP, thinks Schellstede is tilting at windmills. 
Entergy Corp. does not think offshore wind power is promising because turbines would require laying underwater transmission lines and the windmills could be destroyed by hurricanes.

Herman J. Schellstede, chief executive of the New Iberia company Wind Energy System Technologies LLC, which plans to open a wind farm in early 2011 on a 11,355-acre lease seven miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas, says Entergy’s concerns are “ridiculous.”

After collecting 19 months of wind data, Schellstede said WEST will be ready to install its first turbine this spring. By the end of the year, he hopes to have orders for 62 platforms of turbines.

Schellstede, who was busy talking with investors at a wind conference in San Diego last week, said his company has filed two applications to build wind farms off the coast of Louisiana: one at Port Fouchon and one off of Venice. He hasn’t yet heard back from the state.

“No action has been taken,” he said.