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  • Cape Wind and the Clean Energy Economy

    The government is announcing its approval of the nation’s first off-shore wind farm today after a contentious, nearly decade long debate including many interested parties. Millions have been spent on lobbying both to move the project forward and stop it in its tracks. This is nothing new to energy projects. Coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and renewables each have supporters and naysayers. Overregulation and special-interest politicking are two problems that are unlikely to disappear any time soon, but given the small percentage of energy that renewables provide and the ambitious goals our government has, this will likely be taken to a whole new level.

    The Cape Wind off-shore wind farm would be the first in the United States and is in its 9th year of federal review. The 130-turbine project that would spread across 25 square miles received support and opposition from environmentalists – some arguing we need more clean energy production, others arguing that it will harm the marine’s ecosystem. The late Senator Ted Kennedy long argued the aesthetic beauty of the Nantucket Sound would be ruined and tourism would suffer as a result. Indian tribes argue it will destroy sacred land.

    The Institute for Energy Research provides more details: “Overall, the project is estimated to have a maximum delivered capacity of 454 megawatts based on a design wind velocity of 30 miles per hour and greater to a maximum operational velocity of 55 miles per hour. Based on the average wind speed of the Nantucket Sound of 19.75 miles per hour, however, the average generation capacity of the Cape Wind project would be approximately 182.6 megawatts. At this capacity, the Cape Wind project would annually deliver about 1,600 gigawatt-hours of energy.”

    Let’s set aside the $2 billion cost of the project and the federal subsidies Cape Wind receives and focus on the problems that will occur as we attempt to replace fossil fuel-based energy with renewables – both on-shore and off-shore. To replace one offshore natural gas platform we would need 59 Cape Wind projects, which means more than 7,700 turbines covering an area the size of Rhode Island. We would need 24 of these projects to replace one of the 104 nuclear plants we have in the United States.

    This certainly isn’t unique to wind and clear doesn’t follow party line dissent. Just last December California Senator Diane Feinstein introduced legislation to block a large scale solar and wind project in the Mojave Desert. The NIMBY crowd is everywhere contesting everything, which makes for an exceptionally long time for energy projects to come online.

    If wind or solar can compete absent subsidies, mandates or tax credits, then Americans will benefit from a more robust, competitive energy market. Years of subsidies and tax credits haven’t helped wind and solar projects compete with more reliable sources of energy. Solar power supplies less than one percent of the country’s electricity demand; wind does slightly better. That’s not necessarily a red flag to stop building more, but it is indicative of how far we have to go and how costly (in terms of pricier electricity and competing special interests) and contentious it would be to transform to our government’s vision of a clean energy economy. When you add in the necessary transmission lines to transfer the power from where it is generated to where it is needed, it becomes all that more costly and contentious.

    The process could smoothen out as more projects come online but reform that calls for a quicker, efficient review process for all energy projects would be a welcoming step, as would peeling back the subsidies to determine whether these projects can stand on their own two feet.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Cape Wind and the Clean Energy Economy

    1. Donald in Sugar Grov says:

      We need to stop all the political yatta, yatta about citizen punishment for fossil fuel use and environmental group protests! Our politicians need to put this into the hands and minds of "free market" capitalistic corporations to develop and produce by giving them tax reduction incentives to accomplish cleaner air, water and earth. Give American automobile companies the job of developing hydrogen powered cars & trucks (unlimited supply & zero pollution emissions) and American oil companies the job of developing hydrogen cells and distribution to the consumers through their present gas stations. Phase in hydrogen powered vehicles and phase out fossil fuels over the next 10-years. Build more nuclear power plants beginning immediately.

      Also threaten to drill for oil now, do it domestically and that will make OPEC reduce crude oil prices per barrel now!

      Only brides from various sources are keeping our greedy politicians from doing this over the past 40 years! We have very corrupt political leaders in charge!

    2. Lloyd Scallan - New says:

      Wind Farms don't just start producing power into the thin air. An entire system

      of transfer must be installed, which means land acquision (whether or not the land owner agrees) that will destroy more of the surrounding environment, not to mention the actual building and transfer stations that will do nothing for esthetic value. It's just not a few windmills built off shore where no one will see them.

      What happens to the wind turbines with the first hurricane or strong "northeaster"? What happens when the wind don't blow?

      In the mean time, millions of acres of land in the West, offshore, and Alaska, has enough oil and gas to make this country energy independent for more than a hundred years. These areas are being put "off limits" by Obama and his anarchist environmentalist. This is just another "green movement" socialist idea that will not only NOT produce enought power to make one bit of difference to the overall power needs of this nation.

    3. steve,palatine,IL says:

      Where is the cost benefit analysis? Poor reporting, How many years is the break even point? Ideals are great, what do the accountants say about these types of projects, including hidden costs and maintaince?

    4. Kathleen, Phoenix,AZ says:

      Al Gore, instead of flying around in his private jet using the sinful, evil fossil fuel, needs to fly around in a hot-air balloon.Hot-air balloons do not use the sinful, evil fossil fuel, are great for the environment, they are quiet, hence no noise pollution, are pleasing to the eye, and all Al Gore has to do is tilt his head up and blow into the balloon, since he has plenty of HOT AIR to operate it!

    5. G-Man, San Antonio/C says:

      With the saltwater corroding everything in it's way, how long will these giant turbines last? There is no study on the life of these huge structures and the maintaince costs that they will generate, probably be based (guessed) on Oil/Gas platforms. Also, what about the migratory birds that will fly into these huge blades.

    6. Micki-Tamarac, FL says:

      If Hot Air will make that big a difference Why Not Put them in Washington DC. That should take care of the whole USA.

    7. Normca says:

      All of the negatives about it. This would be a good start, despite the arguments put forth. But it is for Obama's re-election campaign so he can say during a debate that he took action on alternative energy. Just like his announcement of drilling, where he opened one area and closed off three more. We need to drill, drill drill and develop alternatives, despite all of the road blocks.

    8. Pingback: The Cape Wind Boondoggle And What You Can Do « motorcitytimes.com

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