In a recent piece published in this newspaper, Glenn Wattley made misleading statements about wind power and Cape Wind that I would like to address. Mr. Wattley is chief executive officer of the organization that formed solely to oppose Cape Wind, he has a background working in the coal industry, and he incorrectly argues that wind cannot help reduce our use of oil.
First, Mr. Wattley claimed that the much-publicized T. Boone Pickens energy plan proves that natural gas, not wind, can reduce U.S. dependence on oil. Mr. Wattley somehow ignores that the centerpiece of Pickens’s plan is to dramatically increase the use of wind power to free up the natural gas now used in power plants to be used instead as a transportation fuel alternative to oil.
Anyone who’s seen the Pickens television ads filled with images of wind turbines realizes that wind power is a central component of his plan to reduce foreign oil. Pickens’s Web site prominently cites a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report from this year that shows how the U.S. can get 20 per cent of its electricity from wind power by the year 2030. Notably, the DOE report also identifies shallow water offshore wind as playing a major role in achieving that goal for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.
In addition to the potential of wind power to free up natural gas to power vehicles, many leading environmental organizations are advocating a major shift to plug-in hybrid car technology that would significantly decrease dependence on expensive oil.
Greater use of plug-in hybrids would also significantly decrease emissions of pollution and greenhouse gasses, but only if we shift more of our electricity production toward clean sources like wind. Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles noted that Cape Wind’s impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for global warming would be like taking 175,000 cars off the road, each year.
It was revealing that Mr. Wattley singled out one hot and fairly calm day in June of this year to argue that Cape Wind would not be a useful source of energy during the times when electricity is most needed. He conveniently ignored the previous 11 hot summer afternoons when electricity had been in greatest demand — all 11 of which were windy!
Thanks to the sea breeze effect usually found on those hot summer afternoons, winds recorded by Cape Wind’s scientific data tower on Horseshoe Shoal during 11 of the last 12 days of record electric demand in New England were well above average. Cape Wind would usually provide significant quantities of clean power during the times that electricity is most needed which would reduce the region’s need to run the oldest, dirtiest and most expensive peaking power plants used to keep the lights on.
Beyond all the claims and counterclaims by advocates and opponents of Cape Wind, a comprehensive and rigorous federal and state permitting process that has been underway since 2001 is finally approaching its conclusion.
If these public agencies determine that Cape Wind is in the public interest, that the site of Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound is appropriate and that the project will be safe for air and sea navigation, Cape Wind will become a reality. In that event, we look forward to providing approximately three-quarters of the electricity used on Cape Cod and the Islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket during average wind conditions.
The stakes on our energy choices have never been higher and the eyes of the world are upon our region to see what happens here. I believe that visitors from around the world will see the visible use of wind power as a thoughtful embrace by the Cape and Islands of a more hopeful energy future.
Mark Rodgers is communications director for Cape Wind. He lives in North Falmouth.