Wind Power Project Stirs Controversy on Cape Cod
For many years environmental advocates have sought a greater economic commitment to renewable, clean forms of energy such as solar, water, and wind power. Today, a controversy is raging on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, but not because a renewable energy source lacks funding.
Energy Management Inc. (EMI), a Boston-based electricity generator, plans to build a "wind park" off the south coast of Cape Cod, in the area known as Horseshoe Shoals in Nantucket Sound, between the Cape and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket to the south. It plans to build 130 turbines that are each more than 400 feet tall with over 300-foot spans in a 24 square mile area. The company and its advocacy organization, Cape Wind, say that the area is ideal for such a project because the wind conditions are right, the water in the area is shallow enough to make construction feasible, and it is close to the hungry Northeastern power grid. Cape Wind says that the output from the wind park would provide about three-quarters of the electricity on Cape Cod and would replace electricity that would have taken more than 100 million barrels of oil to produce.
Despite the benefit of 420 megawatts of energy that will be created by means other than coal or other less clean forms of electricity generation, support for the project is far from universal.
An organization has formed in opposition to the project. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound says that a number of political leaders, environmental groups, local town governments, and businesspeople have voiced concerns about the plan. Among the environmental groups cited are Barnstable Land Trust, International Wildlife Coalition, Three Bays Preservation, and Ocean Conservancy.
The Alliance says that the project amounts to a private taking of public land, since EMI will not pay royalties for the use of the offshore area, as oil companies do when they drill. Also, according to the group, EMI set up the project specifically to take advantage of the federal subsidy for wind power.
The turbines, because of their height, would be an eyesore visible from the shore of the Cape, and would reduce property values and adversely affect tourism and the fishing and maritime business, according to the Alliance. Cape Wind disagrees, saying the turbines would appear to someone standing on the beach to eclipse the horizon by a half-inch. The Alliance disputes that, saying that much shorter lighthouses and radio towers on land are clearly visible from the shoals.
More than a dozen state and federal regulatory agencies are reviewing the project plans. The Alliance sued the Army Corps of Engineers in 2003, saying it didn't have the authority to issue the original permits for building the initial research tower in the shoal. The federal district court and the federal appeals court both sided with the Corps and EMI.
Meanwhile, US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has proposed a bill that would deny federal subsidies for wind projects that are offshore or near national parks. However, the Cape Cod Times has reported that Alexander bought a plot of land on Nantucket in 2001 for $800,000.
Source: Cape Wind, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Cape Cod Times, FindLaw