NEW YORK – Power from planned wind farms off the East Coast would be more reliable if the projects were connected by transmission lines, researchers at the University of Delaware said.

Linking the farms would reduce fluctuations in power when the wind fails in one area, said Willet Kempton, a professor at the university’s College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment in Newark, Del. The study used wind data from 11 meteorological stations spread over 1,553 miles along the East Coast to examine the theoretical effect on wind farms.

The United States, the largest wind power producer in the world, has no offshore farms. Six projects off the coastline from Massachusetts to Delaware are being planned independently to meet power demand in adjacent states. Electricity from interconnected farms would be easier to manage and more valuable than wind at a single location, according to the study.

“If you take our approach, you say wait a minute, we’re not just going to pick the next wind farm based on where there’s a friendly state government,” Kempton said in an interview. “But rather we’re going to look at the next 20 wind farms and figure out how we’re going to get the most power out of them.”

Leveling wind power with transmission lines is cost competitive with the traditional methods of using reserve generators and redundant power line routes, and “far more” economical than utility-scale electrical storage, according to the study. Linking all the planned Atlantic Coast offshore projects with 350 miles of undersea cable would add $1.4 billion to the $10.5 billion estimated construction cost.

During the five-year study period from 1998 to 2002, power from a theoretical offshore transmission grid never dropped to zero. Fossil-fuel generators have a 5.6 percent planned outage rate.


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