In an op-ed that appeared in this newspaper last week Timothy Holmes strangely stated: “The promoters and supporters of the Cape Wind project are about to perform the equivalent of loading 34,000 General Motors 2005 Hummers into Nantucket Sound.”
While Hummers are known for poor gas mileage and having a heavy ecological footprint, wind farms like the one proposed by Cape Wind provide clean energy. According to the federal government’s final environmental impact statement issued in January of this year, Cape Wind will provide clean energy that would otherwise be supplied from fossil fuels, resulting in reduced emissions of air pollution and reduced regional greenhouse gas emissions of 880,000 tons annually.
Given Cape Wind’s positive impact on the environment, leading national and regional environmental organizations have taken supportive positions on Cape Wind including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists, Conservation Law Foundation, Mass Audubon, Environmental League of Massachusetts and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, to name a few.
Mr. Holmes complains that Cape Wind might receive government subsidies but he fails to acknowledge that fossil fuel and nuclear energy continue to benefit from a myriad of government programs and subsidies.
It is true that the federal government and the commonwealth, recognizing the public interest benefits of cleaner air, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating good jobs and decreasing our dependence on imported energy want to encourage companies like ours to invest in clean sources of energy.
A National Academy of Sciences report released last month found that air pollution from fossil fuels in the United States is responsible for nearly 20,000 premature deaths and $120 billion in health care costs each year. The report also found that wind power has one of the lowest environmental impacts of any energy technology.
Mr. Holmes makes incorrect points about decommissioning the Cape Wind project. He wrongly states that decommissioning is more expensive than construction, that the project would be decommissioned in 10 years, and he implies that Cape Wind does not need to provide the funds for its own decommissioning. The federal government will require Cape Wind to provide the funds needed for decommissioning, and it will specify the period of time that Cape Wind can operate until decommissioning or relicensing will be required, probably a time frame of 20 to 30 years. While none of Europe’s 30 offshore wind farms (which date as far back as 1991) have yet been decommissioned, the estimates for decommissioning costs are small compared to the capital costs to build the projects. And much of the steel, copper and other materials used in wind turbines are recyclable and have significant scrap value.
Finally, Mr. Holmes wrongly suggests that Cape Wind’s electricity would not be used here and would instead benefit some other region of the country. In 2002 and 2003 the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative assembled independent, third party experts to speak about various aspects of offshore wind power. Here are the technology collaboratives’s published and recently updated findings on the question of where Cape Wind’s electricity would go, based upon the independent expert testimony they received:
“However electrons flow along the path of least resistance, so power from Cape Wind will flow to the closest load, which is likely to be on the Cape and Islands.
“ . . . According to the Minerals Management Service review, Cape Wind’s generation capacity would average 182.6 megawatts, or about 1,600 gigawatt hours (1.6 billion kilowatt hours) of electricity per year. An average New England household uses roughly 7,150 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, so Cape Wind’s projected output would be enough to meet the yearly demand from about 223,776 households. This output is equivalent to about 75 per cent of average electricity demand on the Cape and Islands. Electricity from Cape Wind would reduce the flow of electricity from other sources into the Cape and Islands grid.”
Mark Rodgers is communications director for Cape Wind. He lives in North Falmouth.