This happened last Wednesday:
The federal government has approved the Cape Wind project. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement at the State House in Boston on Wednesday, with Gov. Deval Patrick by his side.
We wrote about this four months ago, when Salazar suggested this decision was coming. This key to the project outlines its contours – in sum, 170 MW of average capacity utilizing 140 turbines covering about 25 square miles of ocean. And it should provide electricity for about 75 percent of the cape and island folk (or about 200,000).
Here’s Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick:
This day has been long in coming. For nine years, the Cape Wind project has undergone the closest scrutiny by state and federal agencies and by the public. There are thoughtful views on all sides of this question and they have been acknowledged and considered seriously. But today’s decision affirms that on balance Cape Wind is good for our environment and good for our energy needs.
So he’s for it. Here’s one of his counterparts in the upcoming gubernatorial election, state Treasurer Timothy Cahill (who’s running as an independent; Cahill is a former Democrat who is running on mostly liberal ideas):
“It’s an industrial-sized plant in Nantucket Sound, and, in my mind, if it doesn’t lower the cost of electricity and energy, then I can’t support it, because, at the end of the day, it makes us less competitive.’’
We have to say, this comment doesn’t parse at all unless Cahill means that Massachusetts cannot export the electricity at a viable price. We hope not, though, as that would make Cahill seem like a man watching a boat sail off without him. Cahill has some other issues with it:
“I don’t think it’s the real solution,’’ he said. “It will make us feel good about ourselves, just like covering every citizen in Massachusetts with health care made us feel good. On paper and mentally, it’s the right thing to do.
“I understand the attraction to wind, because it seems so benign,’’ he continued. “It’s not as benign as people make it out to be.”
No, it’s pretty benign. We’ve had fun with the idea of berserk turbines sawing though the unwary, but we don’t pretend that’s very realistic. However, we do agree that something that makes one feel good can lead to an easier sell politically. (Cape Wind took 10 years, so it wasn’t that easy.) But something that’s the right thing to do “on paper and mentally” really might be the right thing to do.
We were a little curious about how Cape Wind intends to get that electricity to the islanders. We doubt transmission lines have been built to handle this yet. We’re still not completely sure, but a study by ISO New England, hosted at the Cape Wind Web site covers this, at least sort of:
Among the key results identified in the study, the analysis of transmission development required to support the integration of New England wind resources indicates that focusing on offshore wind results is the most cost-effective use of new and existing transmission, the ISO said, adding that this also allows for the integration of some near-shore inland wind resources.
Cost effective sounds good. How cost effective?
Each of the scenarios identified showed that significant new
transmission investment would be required to move energy from
renewable resources to customers throughout New England. For
example, the ISO said, New England could support the integration of roughly 8,500 MW of low-carbon resources through a combination of offshore and inland wind in New England (5,500 MW) and expanded transmission interconnections with Quebec (1,500 MW) and New Brunswick (1,500 MW), for an estimated cost of about $10 billion in new transmission facilities in New England.
That cost-effective – remember, though, this is a more ambitious project than just hooking up Cape Wind.
If there were nuclear advocacy arguments against wind power, they’d probably try: too little electricity generation for too much land (or water) mass; can’t do base load – depends on the wind blowing; and perhaps some of the old Cape Wind arguments – blocks nice ocean landscapes and ruins the good work of many Sunday painters.
But they’d be wrong and not giving wind its due – it’s clean, it adds electricity generation capacity no matter how many nuclear energy plants are also built and it ensures energy security when that has become a primary national concern. Those are much stronger arguments and benefit from being true. Can one really be for nuclear energy and against wind energy? We can’t see how.”
And remember, it’s the right thing to do “on paper and mentally.” That’s a start.
As far as the eye can see.