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Countdown to Cape Wind

Kit Kennedy

Posted April 26, 2010

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Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has vowed to make a final decision on whether or not to federally approve the first-ever utility-scale American offshore wind facility -- Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts -- by the end of this week (April 30). 

Today’s New York Times editorial page encouraged federal approval of the project and reports that the governors of five Eastern seaboard states, including both Republicans and Democrats, reached out to President Obama last week to do the same. The Times and those Governors are not alone – on Friday, the heads of NRDC, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Conservation Law Foundation and Mass Audubon also wrote a letter to President Obama, urging him to approve the project and begin repowering our country. Here’s why:

  • Cape Wind could produce up to 468 megawatts of wind power -- that’s enough to meet 75% of the electricity demand of Cape Cod and the Islands.  That’s clean zero-carbon power free of waste, air and water pollution. This can solidify U.S. leadership on curbing global warming – coming out of the Copenhagen conference this will help us reach our historic emissions reduction goals. 
  • As a first-of-its-kind facility – this will jumpstart the American wind industry, a key element of moving forward with building a green economy and creating green jobs.
  • It will help us enter the race to become a world leader on clean energy – Europe & China area already in the game.
  • It is consistent with protecting our oceans – based on the government’s and our own environmental reviews, the benefits of Cape Wind outweigh any potential impacts. At our urging, DOI has also incorporated environmental mitigation and monitoring requirements for the project. 

It’s been a long ride for Cape Wind, and NRDC has been part of the process for every twist in the road.

Cape Wind sought permission from the federal government to build this project back in 2001.  Since then, two different federal agencies have conducted environmental reviews for the project in a review process that has lasted almost nine years, much longer than a traditional coal power plant is typically reviewed.

In 2005, NRDC submitted our own extensive comments on the project’s environmental review studies. We both praised the air quality, public health and global warming benefits of the project, and also urged further environmental studies and monitoring and mitigation provisions that would help to ensure it has the least impact possible. At the time, we wrote: “the environmental standards set for the Cape Wind project will create an important precedent for the future offshore wind facilities in the United States, so it is crucial for us to set the bar in the right place.”

Then in 2006, I went with NRDC’s President Frances Beinecke and other members of NRDC’s oceans and energy teams, on a fact-finding trip to Denmark to inform our nation’s own efforts. We toured three of Denmark’s offshore wind projects and met with Danish government energy experts, wildlife organizations and mayors and tourism officials from the coastal towns nearest this project.  We came away impressed by how well the Danish offshore wind projects co-existed with the environment and coastal communities, and full of optimism for the future of offshore wind in the United States.

And finally, after additional environmental review on Cape Wind took place, by 2008 NRDC was ready to officially declare that the project’s environmental benefits outweighed its impacts, and to provide our support for the project.   

Since then, we have continued to participate in each stage of the long review process, culminating in last Friday’s letter to the President with our environmental allies.

Secretary Salazar’s decision on Cape Wind will help to answer the question: is the United State serious about investing in clean energy and creating a green economy?  As we count down the days til Friday, we hope the answer is yes.

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Robbyn CandelariaApr 27 2010 12:40 AM

Your organization is now in the ranks of the throwbacks, AKA the unevolved. What kind of a group would condone the takeover of public lands and waters, particularly those of historic portent to this nation, so that a private developer can plant an industrial windfarm in the middle of it. Destroy eons of natural ecosystem for each and every turbine placement, then multiply that for the electrical service platform that will actually generate power from fossil-fuel based sources. I hope you know that by supporting the Cape Wind proposal, you will go down in history as a fraud, sell-out, or something worse. By supporting the Cape Wind proposal, you are encouraging huge government payouts to millionaires, people who do not need money to pursue their projects. In this economic time, that supportive money will be siphoned away from the real, viable alternatives for clean and renewable energy production. Please respond to these questions for me, my children, and my grandchildren: Just what happened to your conscience as an organization? -- and then what happened to corrupt your judgment as individuals?

John ZeigerApr 27 2010 07:45 PM

I respectfully disagree with Robbyn. We need offshore wind in order to transition from a fossil fuel based economy. No matter how the transition is made, sacrifices need to be made. Global warming is the greatest environmental priority, so we need to fast-track as many renewable projects as we can.

William FerrallApr 27 2010 10:03 PM

" that a private developer can plant an industrial windfarm..."

Gosh, Robbyn, the last time I checked my U.S. history books and today's news, I found no evidence of a PUBLIC program to generate safer, cleaner energy. For better or worse, it has always been private developers who shoulder the effort. As for "government payouts to millionaires," what else is new?

If Cape Wind helps stem the tide of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico or along our precious shorelines here in New England, I'm all for it. As are more than 80% of my fellow Bay Staters. Mine is not a popular opinion here on beautiful Nantucket, where I live, but I'll welcome us leading the nation in FINALLY taking a step towards getting off our dependence on oil and coal and their deadly pollution.

Peter DillerApr 27 2010 10:44 PM

Industrial Wind Farm? Really? Robbyn, the image you project is one of a a smoke spewing, ugly, rusted power plant or some such thing. The truth of the matter is that the Wind Farms are barely visible. And, even if can them they are not an eyesore.

And how dare you say Ms. Kennedy's judgement is corrupted. Wind Farms are the one of the best environmental ideas in the last century. They provide jobs and create clean and renewable energy. I'm so sorry if they also "block" the ocean views for millionaires.

eyesore? I think not.

Please consider finding an alternative news source, other than Fox News.

Robbyn CandelariaApr 28 2010 10:30 AM

I respectfully disagree with John that the Cape Wind proposal is the place to go with offshore wind energy. Nantucket Sound is too important. It is safer and definitely more productive to practice serious energy conservation while increasing use of proven-safe renewable & clean energy production. Doing this NOW accomplishes NOW what Cape Wind would only hope to accomplish in the future. In the meantime, test and develop the potential for offshore wind energy -- especially working on issues such as siting with the least negative impact. Huge" does not mean "better" than many smaller independent units on homes, churches, schools, and businesses. My concern isn't with "clean and renewable"; it is with "responsible." Sacrifices need to be made in terms of energy consumption habits --not Mother Earth and natural resources. BTW-It makes a lot of difference "how the transition is made." Your idea of "fast tracking" is a proven method for disaster when it comes to large-scale projects.

William, how about our tax dollars to public universities for energy research and development -- AKA public money for public use. Private developers want easy money, and what easier money than through a very well-intentioned but greenwashed public. You don't really want to be led by the pied-piper of offshore wind, like we have been led for years by the oil and tobacco industries.

Peter, gee, there's no mistaking wind turbines against the landscape. They're on the same "eyesore" level as brand new monstrous smokestacks -- so think 130 of those sitting atop Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound. Ever seen the decrepit wind farms, ugly and rusted and abandoned? Yes, how dare me say that a so-called environmental protection group is behaving like the famed emperor who didn't have any clothes.

John PearsonApr 28 2010 11:08 AM

Robbyn, your concerns are legitimate. Responsible production of renewable energy is essential for a truly sustainable future. The subject of "eyesore" is not as straightforward as you present it. The fact is that, as a matter of opinion, man made structures such as cell phone towers, office buildings, church steeples, coal power plants and wind turbines can visually pollute or enrich a skyline. A lot depends on your perspective. Some look at solar panels on a roof or wind turbines on a horizon and see graceful structures that are clean and reducing our impact when generating electricity - some see it in that context. Others see it as jarring on an unspoiled landscape or stylistically absurd on a rooftop.
However, comparing a wind turbine to a monstrous smokestack is apples to oranges. The monstrous smoke stack, let's say a coal power plant, produces mercury, sulfur and particulate matter pollution which has a direct health impact on the surrounding communities, never mind the CO2 climate implications. The Wind turbine certainly impacts the view of a landscape, but it is not destroying the health of populations nearby. Also, if you take a look at the wind maps generated by MassGIS and the UMass Renewable Energy Laboratory, you will see that the Cape Wind location has the strongest winds in the state and is also on relatively shallow waters.
Even with substantial reduction of energy consumption and decentralized use of renewable energy, we will still need large scale, industrial and privately operated facilities to produce electricity. The choice is between large scale wind and solar vs. fossil fuels and nuclear. Either way there is an impact, but some medicines have more side effects than others...

Peter DillerApr 28 2010 06:22 PM

The thing I don't get Robbyn, is how you appear to think that Wind Farms are BAD for the environment. NRDC is not a sellout, because Wind Farms are GOOD for the environment. You argument about corrupted judgement might be valid if wind farms were indeed bad for the environment.

But, short story. They're not.

And the very fact that you believe they are, blows my mind. In Denmark wind creates 20% of their electricity with tiny environmental impact compared to power plants.

How do you suggest we stop burning fossil fuels? Or do you think those are good for the Environment?

Robbyn CandelariaMay 1 2010 03:56 PM

Dear John, please don't attribute words to my posts. I quoted Peter's "eyesore" to say that these beasts-in-the-offshore-windfarm-petting-zoo are as graceful as any other human-produced monstrosity. In terms of this windfarm not harming populations nearby? Please RE-think about it. Humans and their siblings will all suffer. Natural resources (i.e. Nantucket Sound) should not be DEconstructed and destroyed (installation) in order to experiment with offshore wind. We can accomplish our individual energy needs without doing that -- NOW. In terms of CO2? This windfarm has the proposed potential to reduce about 1 percent of the total projected increase of emissions in that little piece of the world. In other words, it isn't going to do anything for a long time yet, and even then it will be minimal. We as individuals can do better -- and NOW. No need to wait for those "health benefits" you mention.

Peter, I believe my RE-post to John covers your argument. These windfarms are not good for the environment -- especially when their construction requires the devastation of natural resources. We have the potential as individuals to do more good by generating our own energy. For the NRDC to not promote that fact as well as other sources of non-invasive clean & renewable energy? Hey, I call it as I see it.

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