I recently read a book entitled Cape Wind by Wendy Williams and Robert Whitcomb. It’s a book about the struggle to get approval to build America’s first off-shore wind farm. I have been writing about wind energy lately because I think it has reached a critical mass and it is has the potential to grow to power a large part of America’s electrical grid in the next few decades. In Denmark, wind energy is already producing 20% of that country’s electricity needs.
What’s interesting about Cape Wind is that it’s become such a controversial project. You’d think that something that provides clean and renewable energy to an area of the country that desperately needs more electrical generating capacity would be anything but controversial, yet this is not the case. The controversy stems from the location for the wind farm in Nantucket Sound, which is about 5 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. For the past 6 years, this project has been held up by people who have gone to great measures to make sure it does not get built. What makes it more interesting is the reason they don’t want it to be built. Quite simply, they don’t want to have to look at it. In other words, it offends their sense of aesthetics. Stating this objection publicly would not help their cause so they are using flimsy but less embarrassing excuses such as their concern for wildlife, fisherman, pilots, and a whole host of reasons that are diversions from the real reason, that is, people feel that views from their mansions are off limits for any other societal benefit besides their own viewing pleasure. Nantucket Sound is best viewed from private beaches attached to multi-million dollar estates.
The power from the wind farm could provide up to 75% of the electrical energy needs for Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod. The power for this region is currently generated by a dirty oil-fired plant that has been responsible for several oil spills further down the Cape Cod coast.
The location for the proposed wind farm is ideal because it has excellent wind conditions and it is a shoal, which means it is shallow, making construction much less expensive. It’s actually too shallow to sail yachts in that location during low tide. The wind farm would only be visible from the shore for 1/2 inch above the horizon and only on clear days.
What makes the resistance to the project even more newsworthy is that it is opposed by politicians who claim to be staunch environmentalists such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ted Kennedy, and Mitt Romney. The wind farm is supported by 84% of Massachusetts residents and yet a powerful and elite group is trying to subvert the democratic process by imposing their own will on that of the majority. Since the plant would be located in federal waters, each American should have an equal say in its approval, not just wealthy beach front property owners.
My main concern about the resistance to Cape Wind is that of setting a precedent that wind farms are something people should not want to have in their ‘back yards’. Cape Wind could be a showcase of environmental stewardship. By resisting wind energy, these people are increasing the likelihood of someone else getting a coal-burning power plant in their back yard and that’s not a behavior I want associated with fellow Americans. After all, Europeans have been building off shore wind farms for many years with great success.
People need to understand that clean and renewable energy is necessary to maintain our standard of living, protect the environment, and reduce our dependence on exhaustible fossil fuels. When you look upon a wind farm with those thoughts in mind, it connects with a much deeper sense of aesthetics than the superficiality exhibited by Cape Wind’s opponents.
Perhaps this report from Comedy Central helps add a bit of levity and puts the opposition to Cape Wind in perspective:
I sincerely hope that this project gets approved and built. Not only would it help to solve the Cape’s energy shortfall, it would restore my faith in democracy. It would also help send the message that making up questionable excuses to resist the construction of renewable energy projects is a fool’s errand.
You can keep abreast of this critical project at Wendy Williams’s blog.