By Audra Parker
At first glance, the proposed Cape Wind offshore wind power plant seems like a good
idea: clean energy, no discharge of air pollutants and conversion of a seemingly endless
supply of wind into electricity. So what's wrong with the project?
Like many ideas that look good on the surface, this one fails when you begin to look into
the details. The benefits to the public are small, while the costs are huge. The Cape
Wind project is not a panacea for our excessive energy consumption. Cape Wind
naturally focuses public attention on its benefits, but there are legitimate concerns over
this industrial-scale wind plant, beyond just the aesthetics, that are significant and have
yet to be addressed. There are questions raised over the past three years by fishermen,
pilots, boaters, business owners, bird enthusiasts, and state and local politicians. How
will the project affect navigational safety? What impact will it have on tourism and
property values? What is the real threat posed to birds and other wildlife? Is this project
the best use of public money and public land?
We have been assured by Cape Wind that all of our questions will be answered in the
upcoming draft Environmental Impact Statement - or DEIS - being produced by
the Army Corps of Engineers. But we expect that will not be the case.
For example, we don't know where the true boundary between state and federal
waters lies. Cape Wind and the Army Corps have been using the wrong map, and there
are rock formations that may move the state boundary further out. Governor Romney has
recognized the boundary issue is an important one that affects the state's role in this
project. He has asked the Army Corps to hold off on releasing the DEIS until the actual
state-federal boundary issue is settled. But the Army Corps has refused his request and
said it is going to release the document regardless.
What is the nature of the 40,000 gallons of dielectric transformer oil that Cape Wind is
planning to store on the transformer platform that will sit in the middle of Nantucket
Sound? We would like to know which beaches and sensitive coastal areas would be
harmed if that tank ruptured.
We would like to know how the public will be compensated for the private use of 24
square miles of public land. As it now stands, Cape Wind gets this land for free plus it
gets taxpayer subsidies - $28 million a year in federal subsidies (if the production
tax credit is renewed) and another estimated $40 million in state green credits. We, the
public, are paying a developer to make money.
We would like to know how this risky project will be insured against failure before
Nantucket Sound becomes an industrial experiment. Cape Wind has held up the
world's largest offshore wind power plant, in Horns Rev, Denmark, as a model for its
own project. This plant was dismantled this past summer, after less than 2 years of
operation, because of major failures with the turbines. All 80 turbines were transported
back to shore for repairs at a cost of millions of dollars.
When this massive federal document is released, we need to make sure it answers all of
our questions. We need to make sure that the DEIS, which is largely based on studies
paid for by Cape Wind, does so objectively.
This is the first offshore wind project in the US and will set the stage for hundreds of
additional turbines within Nantucket Sound and potentially thousands more up and down
our coastlines. We need enough time to digest the impacts of this project, understand
them and challenge them.
If you want to get involved to protect Nantucket Sound, before it is too late, visit us at saveoursound.org.
renewable, but Nantucket Sound is not.
Broadcast September 21, 2004
Audra Parker is the Assistant Director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound