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There Once Was a Wind Farm From Nantucket: Rethinking Energy Production

There Once Was a Wind Farm From Nantucket: Rethinking Energy Production

The state of Vermont is poised to shut down the Yankee nuclear power plant, after months of underground tritium leaks, and misleading statements from Entergy’s local management team.

A BP drilling rig explosion will lead to as much as 4 million gallons of crude oil leaking out into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening wide-scale coastal damage.

29 miners were killed this month in an explosion in a Massey Energy coal mine in West Virginia.

You would think that these messes would have the public – and especially environmentalists – running towards wind power as a solution…without even factoring in the climate change benefits of renewable energy. Yet in Cape Cod, some environmental groups and residents are fighting hard to overturn approval of the nation’s first offshore wind farm. The Cape Wind project will build 130 turbines covering 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound. As the New York Times reports, the offshore wind farm would lie about 5 miles from the nearest shore on the mainland, and about 13 miles from Nantucket Island. The tip of the highest blade of each turbine would reach 440 feet above the water. 

Is anyone seriously more concerned about 400 foot towers 5 miles off shore than they are with oil spills and radioactive leaks ino the water tables? The answer seems to be yes.

As one resident put it, “I’m 100 percent for alternative energy, but just not in Nantucket Sound.”  The movie The Age of Stupid also documented similar attitudes in the UK. The term for this is NIMBY (Not In My BackYard), a sort of reverse tragedy of the commons. The tragedy of the commons describes “a situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently, and solely and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen.” In this case, the individuals will prevent a common resource from being created, but the outcome is the same.

If we’re serious about renewables, this sort of thinking has to change. Dams, turbines, and solar panels visibly alter local vistas and ecosystems, so there is a perceived and visible negative impact to renewables. In contrast, most of us don’t see mountain top mining, fossil fuel related CO2e emissions, or where spent nuclear reactor fuel goes to slowly die over thousands of years. It’s also much more convenient for energy to be produced somewhere else and transported – inefficiently and at great expense – to where we use it. Everyone wants wind power, but not always the windmills.

My friend Rosie, who grew up in Nantucket, has a more enlightened view: “Cape Wind will certainly diminishes the vista, but that’s the price we have to pay to get clean energy. It’s better than an oil spill, a nuclear accident, air pollution, and war.”  She’s actually more concerned with a second issue raised by opponents to Cape Wind: that a private firm – Energy Management Inc. (EMI) is developing the project, and plans to make money at it. But both Vermont Yankee and the leaky oil rig in the Gulf are also private enterprises. If cleantech is going to succeed, private firms will need to have the opportunity to make profits. A lot of speculative capital is needed to scale up new innovative approaches and the delivery of clean energy.

It’s clearly time to change how we think of electricity production.  When it comes to farming (roughly 1% of the US economy) we want to buy local, know where our food comes from, and support a vibrant private sector. Since energy expenditures are 6-8% of our economy, maybe we should be thinking along the same lines.

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Photo copyright: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bossco/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

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107 comments

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1:04PM PST on Nov 12, 2013

We just installed 27 solar panels on our home and we have been enjoying the nearly 80% savings in our electric bill.

8:11PM PST on Nov 9, 2013

Thank you.

8:10PM PST on Nov 9, 2013

Thank you.

8:10PM PST on Nov 9, 2013

Thank you.

8:09PM PST on Nov 9, 2013

Thank you.

8:08PM PST on Nov 9, 2013

Thank you.

9:25AM PST on Mar 10, 2011

"A critical fact to understand is that just because a power source is an alternative, or a renewable, does NOT automatically mean that it is better than any conventional or fossil fuel source!"

http://windpowerfacts.info/

http://www.northnet.org/brvmug/WindPower/ThePowerofEnergy.pdf

Our group is trying to get our state to enact a law to protect airports, both public and private ones, from wind turbines being placed in flight paths. In doing research on this issue, I found the above informational links. I am not affiliated with and do not know the author of those papers.

Even though I've been searching for weeks, I can't find one single "scientific" paper that supports the use of wind energy. The only papers that do support it are written by wind lobbyists who stand to gain $$$. 60% of the cost of wind turbines is paid for with taxpayer dollars! Does wind make any sense when all the facts are in? NO!

5:49PM PST on Mar 6, 2011

You know I was riding down the interstate tonight and thought, that they could put wind mills where they now have lights and all that open space in the medians. It would help to disperse the auto emissions, while generating electricity. And it could wire into the grid and not have to have miles of cables, under the ocean. They may not be able to be as large, but it would be a way to generate electricity and it would be more cost effective too. And would not disturb our sea life. I just wonder if the birds flying around would know not to fly close to it.

8:24PM PST on Dec 29, 2010

PS. You may not live too close to wind turbines but just remember the destruction of sea life and the fact they contain hydraulic oil which sometimes leaks and the stray voltage which kills anything near them along with the Emissions they give off. They may only give off small CO2 but that is not the problem with them Its the emissions you cannot see except with a special instrument which lights them up Also the lights needed on top to warm aircraft and the flicker which occurs from rotating blades and who will clean them up and dismantle when their 20 year or so life span finishes. Who cleans up the birdlife that is sucked into the air around the blades which slices them up? The fact is they are not "green" energy. Read all about a-z of wind turbines as well.

8:17PM PST on Dec 29, 2010

Do you realise how bad these turbines are for sea life? If you read about wind turbines and their effects I am sure the ones who did not bother to read about how bad these things are would have voted yes instead of a definite no. Please if you care about the environment look up all the sites about wind turbines and their effects and do not read what the builders of these environmental vandals say. Stray voltage is one thing along with the backup power plants they need because the blades must keep turning. Although in most cases they are built away from humans it still is a factor in health if built any closer than 3 kms. Studies by doctors and even one of Nasa's Drs. wrote how bad the noise is for human health.

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