NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The city of North Myrtle Beach is home to the state's first-ever off shore wind turbine, paving the way for a new source of green and renewable energy.
Santee Cooper installed its first wind turbine at North Myrtle Beach's Oceanfront Park today as part of the city's green power program.
"It's an opportunity to study different types of turbines and how they react in the wind environment here in North Myrtle Beach," Councilman Greg Duckworth said. He is a member of the North Strand Coastal Wind Team. He projects returns on investing in these turbines can be huge.
"If you're in a wind field, that you can see a return on your investment in say five, ten years - depending on the investment and wind speeds you have in your particular location," Duckworth added.
Santee Cooper says the 2.4 kilowatt turbine starts to create electricity when wind speeds reach 8 miles per hour. It reaches its maximum energy output at 29 mph. The energy company says the turbine can generate enough to power a medium-sized refrigerator.
The turbine is equipped with a built-in meter that shows real-time energy output. That data can feed to the internet and help energy experts to learn exactly how the turbine generates power.
"Anyway we can reduce our reliance on other fossil fuels and move ourselves forward in that arena, I think that's a positive thing for our region."
Energy experts say for every dollar invested in wind energy, the city can save $5 in total energy costs. The wind turbine is the first of what North Myrtle Beach officials expect to be eight total. It will be used primarily as an educational tool.
In a survey conducted by the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, 91 percent said they support wind farms off the coast, if it meant the city would become energy self-sufficient.
"This has been a dream for quite a while," North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley said. She and North Myrtle Beach city leaders believe this turbine is the first step in bringing small wind energy systems to the Carolina coast, which could eventually help offset energy costs.
Members of the state energy office and General Electric held a forum Tuesday night to explain the advantages and challenges they expect to face as the state explores wind energy. Coastal Carolina University studies show strong potential for offshore wind energy in South Carolina.
"We're very excited," said program manager for developing markets, offshore wind at GE. They say the strongest winds are in the area near Georgetown and to the North.
Funding, however, for research and more turbines will pose a challenge. They estimate that each kilowatt hour will cost the city 12 to 16 cents.
Duckworth said this new turbine and further studies could open doors for new jobs, economic growth, and clean energy in South Carolina.
"Hopefully this will be, kind of, the leading edge for the future."