Itís simple: when weíre using wind to supply even a small percentage of our energy needs, weíre using fewer fossil fuels, and therefore, emitting fewer greenhouse gases.
If the New England grid were to take wind-generated electricity from the Nantucket Sound project, it would use less natural-gas and coal-generated energy. At those times, coal-burning energy providers ó like Mirantís Canal Generating Plant in Sandwich, which you can see as you drive over the Sagamore Bridge to Cape Cod ó would more frequently be idle. (Mirant has stayed mum, voicing no official position on the project.) Itís unlikely that coal-burning plants would ever be shut down completely ó a fact wind-farm opponents like to highlight. But Rodgers argues that the point is to have a more diverse energy portfolio, one that includes more clean choices.
Here in Massachusetts, the legislature established the Renewable Portfolio Standard in 1997 to set green-energy goals. By 2004, 1.5 percent of retail electricity suppliersí energy was supposed to come from renewable sources; in 2005, the standard is set at two percent. So far, however, the state is falling far short of meeting those modest marks, barely maintaining last yearís measly 1.5 percent, and nowhere near the 2009 goal of a full four percent.
Rodgers thinks the Cape Wind project could deliver half the stateís renewable-energy standard, and start a domino effect of more clean-energy projects. Without it, he says, we wonít even come close. Both Rodgers and Palmer suggest that one of the harshest consequences of not building the wind farm would be Massachusettsís passing up the chance to be a national leader on a forward-looking initiative. And it would sting particularly hard for a left-leaning state with a history of leading on clean-air, clean-water, and land-preservation programs.
"If this project is shot down for the wrong reasons, then itís going to set back the progress of renewable-energy development in this country for goodness knows how long," Palmer says. "The risk of failure is huge. If local special interests can kill whatever they want to, weíll never have a wind project."
On the horizon
With several permits and approvals outstanding, and Alliance lawsuits pending, the Cape Wind project has a long way to go. The US Army Corps of Engineers, which has for the first time taken on the responsibility of permitting an offshore energy project, is expected to issue its Final Environmental Impact Statement ó evaluating everything from birds to fish to aviation to aesthetics ó by the end of 2005, but more red tape will follow.
Meanwhile, the Fourth of July kicked off the Capeís official summer season, where both sides will ramp up their public-outreach campaigns in an effort to attract new supporters. On the streets of Hyannis, where both the Alliance and Clean Power Now are based, residents have lived with the question of Cape Wind for years. But when asked, they quickly voice myriad opinions, as if they have them stored away until the next time the debate flares up.
Take this typical response, from Angie Collins, who served me a slice at the Pizza Port in Hyannis. While Collins is "very much in favor of alternative energy sources," she thinks "there must be other alternatives." Collins has lived in Hyannis Harbor for eight years, but doesnít have an ocean view. "We need to do something," she says, "but Iíd rather it was somewhere else."
Steve Edwards, a 45-year-old certified public accountant who works in Hyannis and lives in Yarmouth, sees things differently. To start, Edwards thinks there should be a Cape-and-Islands-wide referendum on the issue, just to see where people stand once and for all. (A few towns have already passed anti-wind referendums, but because the wind farm is slated for construction in federal waters, these measures are largely meaningless.)
"I personally donít think itís a bad idea to put a wind farm out there," Edwards says. "How much are you really going to see? How is that going to distract from the beauty of the area? No one is going to be hurt by it, with the exception of looking at some little sticks out there."
Greg Cestaro, a 51-year-old office manager from Pennsylvania enjoying the last day of his week-long Cape Cod vacation outside the Caffè e Dolci coffee shop in Hyannis, acknowledged the need for renewable-energy innovation. But he admitted that "after coming and seeing how beautiful things are, you kind of donít want that disturbed."
In 2003, the wealthy, anti-wind-farm Egan family funded a study by Suffolk Universityís Beacon Hill Institute. The study claims that wind turbines would be responsible for a drop in tourism income, as well as property values. Thatís the concern of the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce, which represents 690 businesses, says executive director Tracy Bakalar. She worries that tourists will be turned off when they see "such an industrial blight" as they approach via ferry or air. "They come to the Cape and Islands to get away from such things, not to be confronted by them visually."
You would think the same would go for Wayne Chason, 57, who owns the Barnacle, a hot-dog-and-hamburger outfit overlooking Craigville Beach. From its south-shore location on the Cape, the beach will have one of the closest views of the wind farm. But the only thing Chasonís worried about is the ESP that will hold 40,000 gallons of insulating mineral oil. "The look doesnít bother me," he says, nor does he think beach attendance will sink. As long as Cape Wind can convince him that the oil will be protected from spills or terrorist attacks, Chason, who saw wind farms up close on a visit to Germany last year, gives a thumbs up.
Thereís also Robert Skydell, who owns the Offshore Ale brewery and restaurant in the town of Oak Bluffs on Marthaís Vineyard. When he first heard about the Cape Wind project on the radio in 2001, Skydell thought it was crazy. Then he visited Sweden, where "as soon as you get out of the airport, you start seeing wind turbines.
"I thought they were just captivating, and beautiful," he recalls. "By the time I got home two weeks later, I was convinced that this was not as threatening or as ominous an idea as I thought."
Deirdre Fulton can be reached at email@example.com. Katie Liesener contributed to this report.page 3
Issue Date: July 15 - 21, 2005
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