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Stanford eyes offshore wind farms for Calif.

A Stanford team gives Cape Mendocino the top pick as a site for an offshore wind turbine power plant. Also: interconnect wind farms for a steady electrical supply.

SAN FRANCISCO--A Stanford research team has concluded that the ocean not far off the Northern California coastline is the most promising spot for an offshore wind farm to generate power.

Specifically, the researchers concluded that the sea off Cape Mendocino, roughly 150 miles northwest of San Francisco, was their top pick. Wind turbines there could supply 5 percent of California's electrical power needs, they projected.

The researchers plan to present their findings Thursday at the American Geophysical Union conference here Thursday.

There are a number of offshore wind farms--one to the west of Denmark springs to mind--but most of the attention on wind power in the U.S. has focused on terrestrial installations. The Stanford team, though, evaluated several locations in the Pacific Ocean to the west of California.

The researchers compared three spots on the basis of sea depth as well as wind speed and consistency. Ocean winds are stiffer farther offshore, where seas are deeper, but it's prohibitively expensive to build there. Thus was the ocean off the San Francisco Bay Area ruled out.

Most of the Southern California coast isn't windy in the summer, so it, too, was scratched from the list. That left the sea off Cape Mendocino, north of San Francisco. Actually building such a farm would require environmental and other reviews and probably would take at least seven years, said Michael Dvorak, a doctoral student who worked on the study.

No doubt that wouldn't sit well with some folks who appreciate their pristine Pacific views today, the researchers acknowledged in a statement.

But even in the case of a controversial 130-turbine Cape Cod power project, opposition came from a vocal minority. An Opinion Research Corp. study earlier this year found 58 percent of those who live on or near Cape Cod support the wind farm project, the Stanford researchers said.

Other researchers involved in the study are Mark Jacobson, a professor, and Cristina Archer, an assistant professor.

Jacobson and Archer also are presenting separate research at AGU that found linking multiple regional wind farm projects together can even out supply gaps caused by inconstant winds.