See the Windmills? An Experiment for Spotting Offshore Wind

offshore Wind turbines on the ocean
Offshore Wind turbines on the ocean

When it was first proposed that offshore windmills be built in the ocean off Montauk to provide power to 70,000 homes, some people objected saying they didn’t want to look out at some ugly metal windmills sticking up on the horizon. As a result, the location was arranged to be 30 miles out, and that, according to the developer, was far enough out over the horizon so nobody on the beach could see them.

And you could do the math. Knowing the windmill blade at its highest point, the circumference of the Earth, the rate of its spin, the distance the windmills would be from the beach, the summer solstice, an average-size bather standing with eye level at five feet — well, it was true. They were over the horizon. But just barely.

And so, last week, with the underwater cables out to the site nearly finished, officials gave the green light for builders to construct these windmills. The work will be completed by the end of this summer.

Buried deep in this announcement was the proud statement that these windmills, still 30 miles off, would be the very newest and tallest models, with turbines now up to 665 feet tall allowing for even greater energy production than previously envisioned.

And I went, whoa, whoa. 665 feet? That’s the height of a 60-story building.

I did the math again. Everything was the same, except the windmills are taller. And the result was that the tops of the blades as they turned would at one-and-a-half second intervals flash the presence of the 12 turbines above the horizon for an instant and then disappear back down. Twelve pulses of flashing steel. All in a row.

I did the math a third time. This time the result was that they were just barely below the horizon. But if you stood on a box on the beach you could get the flashes. Or conversely if a penguin or seabird perched atop a blade you’d see him bob up and down.

Why was this calculation different? In the second study, I added in global warming and sea rise. But still, with the bird and the box, there it was.

More recently, I found an online chart that showed object visibility on the horizon. It was published by a government agency supposedly for ships at sea. Something 500 feet high could be seen on the horizon from 29.58 miles away. But something 665 feet high could first be seen on the horizon from 30.48 miles away.

This makes no sense. The curvature of the earth doesn’t change. Taller should be visible further in. This chart is a government coverup. In cahoots with the offshore windmill industry.

And so, I am looking for volunteers. On May 20, I will need 40 volunteers. Twenty will stand on the beach with binoculars and boxes at Montauk. And 20 will come with me aboard The Peconic Dolphin, a fishing boat I am chartering for the day.

Between now and then, I will be constructing a 620-foot-long pole that will fold up to fit on the deck of the Dolphin. At 30 miles out, we will take the pole 45 feet up to the flying bridge of the Dolphin, unfold it, hold it there vertically and radio “binoculars up” to the beach. And we will find out the truth.

Remember you read this first in Dan’s Papers.