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Professor Sees Chain Of Wind Farms Along Coast

Wind farms, like the one the government approved off Cape Cod, Mass., on Wednesday, are a great way of generating clean energy -- except when there's no wind. If a breeze is blowing one day and dead the next, it's going to be hard to keep the lights on.

"The biggest drawback of wind power is that it varies with the forces of nature rather than obediently increasing and decreasing when we have more or less need for electricity," says Willett Kempton, a professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware.

But Kempton thinks he has a solution: placing a series of wind farms along the coast and connecting them so that power is shared.


So, if there was no wind in Maryland, but a lot of wind off Cape Cod, the power station in Maryland would be able to pull power from the Cape and other locations.

"The stations that have more power -- the excess is then fed down the power line and used by other points where there's maybe not so much or no wind at the time," Kempton tells NPR's Guy Raz.

Kempton envisions thousands of wind turbines along the East Coast, connected by a transmission line buried offshore. He says such a project would be relatively low cost and that the costs are declining as the technology improves.

"Frankly, you could start in however long it takes to get the permits, which might be a couple of years," he says. "But it's not something where there's some new technology that's required."

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