To: Minerals Management Service
From: Abbey L. ****
Topic: Nantucket Wind Farms
Date: April 1st, 2008
The proposed Cape Wind Project would be the United State's first offshore wind farm. The planned farm is to be built on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The 900-million dollar project would cover 24-square miles of land, 130 wind turbines, each measuring in at around 440 feet above the water, with its blades stretching 365 feet. At its closest distance the turbines would be 5.2 miles off the shoreline, and at its furthest, 11 miles. These wind turbines would be able to generate up to 468 megawatts of renewable energy, meeting the needs of 420,000 homes, and about 75% of Cape Cod and the Island’s total energy needs. This could offset slightly less than a million tons of carbon dioxide and 113 million gallons of oil each year. However, though originally proposed in 2001, the Cape Wind Project still faces major opposition. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound states that Nantucket is known worldwide for it's natural beauty and would be ruined by the aesthetic pollution the wind turbines would create. In turn, this could potentially decrease property values and affect tourism, the island’s primary source of income. There are also questions raised regarding fisherman, almost all of who oppose the project. Additionally, questions have been raised about the turbines harmful effects on bird migrations and marine wildlife. Lastly, the question of the wind farm’s proximity to shipping lanes has been raised, as these wind farms would be less than a mile and half away from major shipping lanes.
In 2007, the project finally received approval from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and in January 2008, the federal organization Mineral Management Service, a department in the Department of the Interior, gave final approval of the project. However, after allowing a 60-day period for public comments, the Mineral Management Service received over 40,000 comments from the public, which they will review them over the summer, and then release a final decision in the fall. The question for the MMS to determine: Is a clean renewable-energy plant, which could sustain a substantial portion of Massachusetts energy needs, worth the risk of aesthetic pollution, the strain on the local economy, and the potentially harmful effects on wildlife?
Opposition of the Cape Wind Project:
Cape Cod, including the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, is known for its natural beauty, and is one of the top ten tourist destinations in the country. The Alliance To Protect Nantucket Sound, whose stakeholders include Senator Edward M. Kennedy and a long list of local organizations and Cape Cod towns, argue that the Cape Wind project will cause aesthetic pollution which will be detrimental to the economy by decreasing real estate values and tourism. The Cape Wind project is expected to span over 25 square miles, roughly the size of Manhattan; the wind turbines will, at their highest point, reach 440 feet, somewhere between the height of the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument; and the diameter will measure around 364 feet. Additionally, there will be a helicopter landing pad, which will hold 40,000 gallons of transformer oil, as well as 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel. All of the turbines would be connected to this by 66 miles of cable. At night, the view would be affected by flashing red and amber lights, as well as a fog horn. At points the wind farm will be as close as 4.8 miles from the shore line, and will be visible during both day and night from over 40% of the coastline. Additionally, it would affect up to 16 historical sites, notably Hyannisport, which is home to the Kennedy compound. This could possibly result in decreasing property values totaling up to $1.35 billion.
A study done by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston projected that the decreases in tourism would be drastic from $257 million a year to $62 million a year, as well as a reduction in employment from anywhere to 1173 to 2533 tourism related jobs. The Cape’s unemployment rates can be as low as 3.5% during summer months, and can reach as high as 9.7% during winter months, and thus the loss of jobs could potentially be detrimental to an economy that is based on tourism.
Nantucket Sound is home to wildlife that is federally protected due to the endangered status that some animals in the vicinity retain, such a piping plovers. Concerns about violations of federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, have been addressed. Additionally, Nantucket Sound is part of the Atlantic Flyway, one of the largest migratory bird routes globally. Around six million birds migrate through every year, and thus concerns have arisen about low-flying birds during storms, during which the birds fly at lower levels about equal to the turbines. Nantucket Sound is one of the most commonly traveled shipping lanes in the Atlantic Ocean, and these wind turbines in some instances could be running very close to the channels along which the ferries and fishing boats travel. In fact, the wind farm would be directly adjacent to this major shipping lane. According to the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sounds website: “For a ship or boat traveling at just over 5 knots, the turbines would be spaced about 2 minutes apart, and only one minute apart at a speed of 12 knots, jeopardizing a ship or boat crew’s ability to take avoidance action in an emergency.” Additionally, The British Chamber of Shipping calls for a “separation zone of at least two nautical miles from recognized shipping lanes.”
The commercial fisherman of Cape Cad and the Islands catch around 50%-60% of their income from the fish they collect in Horseshoe Shoal. Not only will these wind turbines potentially cause the fish to migrate, but also the risk of the nets getting caught in the turbines would be too great to continue fishing there. According to the Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership, who represents 18 commercial fishing organizations, “navigation of mobile fishing gear between the 130 towers would be hazardous or impossible and, in short, Cape Wind would displace commercial fishing from Nantucket Sound.”
The technology of creating wind farms still remains costly. In fact, the Cape Wind farm would receive $241 million in state and federal subsidies. There are also projections that this will cost both state and federal taxpayers over $3.1 billion over their life times. According to the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, these wind farms would produce electricity at two to three times the current wholesale prices. A proposal for a wind farm in Delaware received set backs when a study showed that it could actually increase one’s electricity bill by $55 per month, raising the question of how much people are willing to pay for cleaner energy. According to the US Department of Energy, over 600 utility and municipal electricity departments offer “Green Power” alternatives. Nstar, the Boston utility company, recently announced that they were going to let their customers choose to buy their energy from wind sources, costing such customers an additional $7.50 to $15 a month. A green program offered by National Grid, says only 6,000 of their 1.3 customers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts participate.
Alternatively, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is not against Wind Farms. They are stronger supporters of renewable clean energy, just further off shore by using deep-water technology.
Approval of the Cape Wind Project:
With rising energy costs, and the global warming crisis the need for alternative energy has never been greater. According to the website, “Cape Wind will provide a quantity of wind generated electricity annually equivalent to the amount of electricity that would be produced from burning 570,000 tons of coal, 113 million gallons of oil, or 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas.” The Cape Wind Project is unique in that it directly offsets petroleum usage, for about 45% of the Cape' and the Island's energy comes from a plant in Sandwich, Massachusetts that burns both oil and natural gases and the wind farm would greatly reduce the amount of oil shipped to this plant. This particular plant was involved in two major oil spills, one in 1976 where 7.7 million gallons of oil was spilled, and one more recently in 2003, where a spill of 98,000 gallons of oil closed down 100,000 acres of shellfish beds and killed 450 birds.
The Cape Wind website states that the wind farms will bring a new kind of eco-tourist to Cape Cod's shores. Wind farms built in Denmark, built along the country's coast, became one of the biggest tourist destinations in Copenhagen and the beach town of Blavandshuk. According to the information the Cape Wind provides, there is not any example of an offshore or land wind farm effecting tourism. Rather the wind farms open up for the possibility of a new type of tourism. As a result, the numbers that the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound publishes regarding job losses as a result of the wind farm would be irrelevant. In fact, during construction Cape Wind will create 600-1,000 jobs. After this, Cape Wind will create 150 permanent jobs, with 60 of those being located on Cape Cod. Additionally, since there is public concern regarding the affect of wind farms on real estate values, in 2003 the United States Government commissioned a study that was released in 2003, tracking over 25,000 real estate transactions near the largest wind farms in the United States. It found no effects on real estate prices. Additionally, the offshore wind farms in Europe have shown no adverse affects of harming high-end coastal estate properties. Lastly, at their highest the wind turbines would stand merely 0.5 inches above the horizon In March 2006, the National Audubon Society backed the Cape Wind project, for after conducting extensive studies they found that endangered birds such as the pipping plover generally avoid the 24-square mile area where the wind farms will be built. However, the Audubon Society stated that it remains a “difficult decision because it would probably cause some bird deaths.” They additionally said that the “cost was outweighed by the need for renewable energy sources.” Since the waters of Cape Cod are well known for the ability to be easily navigated, concer has been raised about the turbines getting in the way of the shipping lanes. However, the turbines will be placed away from all the commercial shipping lanes. Additionally, Horseshoe Shoal where the turbines will be placed is very shallow—at mid tide the range is from 2 to 50 feet and at its lowest tide some of the bottom of the Horseshoe Shoal is actually exposed—naturally making the direct area of wind turbine placement extremely dangerous to use for commercial shipping. The turbines will be placed one third of a mile a part, which is a significant distance for them to be easily navigated. Also, for an additional safety measure, the area will be well marked with lights that are not only easily visible to boaters and aviation craft, but are also designed at the same to minimize visibility from the shore. Lastly, all the cables used to transmit the electricity will be buried at least six feet under the ocean floor, and as a result will not create an obstacle to navigation.
When the plans of the project were made the highest attention was given to the way in which it would affect the fishing industry, and as a result the project was designed so the fishing habitat would be able to protect the industry. The third of a mile between turbines is more than needed to safely navigate a shipping vessel. The Cape Wind website suggests that the sheltered environment created by the turbines would provide a sheltered habitat which would help species such as scup, flounder and Atlantic mackerel flourish to thrive.
According to the Cape Wind website, the wind farms “will help to stabilize and even reduce the price of electricity.” Their website suggests that this will be done in 3 ways: “(1) The Cape Wind will reduce the clearing price for electricity in the New England spot market by reducing operations of the regions most expensive power plants, reducing electricity prices in New England by 25 million dollars per year, (2) Cape Wind will reduce the implementation costs of the Renewable Portfolio Standard to Massachusetts electricity consumers by increasing the supply of renewable energy certificates and (3) Cape Wind will pursue long-term power contract(s) that will lock-in a fixed price for electricity for a term of ten or more years. This would provide electricity consumers purchasing Cape Wind with far greater electric price stability and price certainty than is typically available.”
Though the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound raises creditable arguments, the question following question must be raised: is their opposition really self-serving, as their greatest concern seems to be the destruction of natural beauty? It seems that no matter where these wind farms are proposed they face opposition from their residents. Senator Edward Kennedy supports wind farms in other locales but not the Cape Wind farm projected for Nantucket Sound, whose home looks out upon the sound. A recently proposed wind farm in the Cape Cod canal has received opposition again. Because Cape Wind farm has proven through various studies that they have answers to the questions raised by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound regarding cost, economy, shipping lanes and wildlife, it is important for the Cape Wind to set precedence for future wind farm developments worldwide. By allowing the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound to win, it will give creditability to future opposition, which will only make future wind projects more difficult, at a time when alternative renewable energies are greatly needed.
“Cape Wind Public Comments Top 40,000”