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Is Cape Wind Dead?

Last week, with little fanfare, the Cape Cod Commission denied Cape Wind Associates permission to run transmission lines to their proposed offshore wind farm, the Boston Globe reports. The Commission based its decision on Cape Wind's alleged failure to provide sufficient information about its project. Yet there is little doubt the decision was motivated by well-financed local opposition. As the Globe editorialized last week:

The cable has been the focus of so much attention by state and Cape Cod regulators because it is the one part of the project under their purview - the turbines themselves would be in federal waters and under jurisdiction of federal watchdogs. . . .

There is evidence that the Cape Cod Commission is finding fault with the cable proposal because some commission members or residents of the towns they represent do not want the turbines, which at their closest point would be about five miles from the Cape, in their viewscape. At the same time the commission was dealing with the cable proposal from Cape Wind, it approved without benefit of any review at all a new electric cable linking Nantucket with the Cape. At 26 miles, that cable has already been built, and it is double the length of Cape Wind's.

Cape Wind can appeal the decision, or seek to satisfy the Commission's information request. Either course may involve further delay, and further cost increases. If local NIMBYs defeat this project, it could produce an ill wind for offshore wind projects nationwide.

I previously wrote on regulatory obstacles to wind power and other alternative energy sources here.

Oren (mail):
How hard would it be to route the cable around Cape Cod jurisdiction? Offer the fine folks in Newport, RI a discou nt rate on the power and I'm sure they'd jump on it.

It's hard for me to understand, but ever since this story became news I've started having a strong visceral attachment to this project . . . I'd very much like to see it through.
10.23.2007 1:24am
Oren (mail):
PS. Your blawg won't let me post the word dis count. LAME!
10.23.2007 1:24am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Well, at least those folks on Cape Cod will be the first to go under the rising sea levels from abrupt climate change, induced in part by their rejection of wind power. And because of this short-sightedness, they will deserve their fate.

I don't know how many people have seen the wind farms at the Altamont Pass and coming down off the mountain into Palm Springs, but they are amazing.

Sad to hear such a worthy "green" project got shot down at the last moment by such a bunch of fools. They should have been proud and honored the privilege of having this project in their area.
10.23.2007 2:33am
neurodoc:
...some commission members or residents of the towns they represent do not want the turbines
T-E-D K-E-N-N-E-D-Y?
10.23.2007 2:37am
drewski (mail):
I tend to agree with neurodoc, in that the extent of the Kennedy family's "influence" over Cape and Islands matters is far more than most non-Cape people can imagine. There is hardly a non-elected position within 20 miles of Hyannis that is not subject to approval by some part of the Kennedy cabal; as a result, anything that the Kennedys express an opinion on tends to become n operating guideline.

The power cable that runs to Nantucket was not a "problem" in that it didn't impact the Kennedy's view of Nantucket Sound - in fact, the cables to/from the Cape Wind project won't impact their view either, but using the cable approvals as a lever in "allowing" Cape Wind to build and operate their turbines gives the Kennedy "interests" a significant ability to dictate the economics of the project. In the Hyannis/Cape environment, the Kennedy family needs never to rationalize the two apparently conflicting viewpoints - they merely need to make sure that there "patronage pals" follow the script that they've been given.
10.23.2007 10:23am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
This is actually a good thing.

If any of the unwary were under the impression our lords and masters intended to pay any price at all for the Good Things the rest of us were going to be required to do, this...won't make any impression either.
10.23.2007 11:09am
WHOI Jacket:
Living on Cape Cod, you see a lot of SOS bumper stickers (Save Our Sound), while the legal obstructions were spearheaded by you-know-who, there was a good deal of grassroots/NIMBY going around too.
10.23.2007 12:32pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
"I don't know how many people have seen the wind farms at the Altamont Pass and coming down off the mountain into Palm Springs, but they are amazing."

"Amazing" as in beautiful, awesome, spectacular, inspiring, I assume, as that is how I see it.

The irony is that the windmills would actually add to the seascape or at least be benign. Oh well, lots of smart people are also very conventional in their attitudes and that's what you get with the wind farm hysteria.
10.23.2007 1:11pm
ejo:
I think it is covered above but, if global warming exists and well educated liberal "environmentalists" aren't willing to make any sacrifices, what does that say about how seriously they view the problem?
10.23.2007 1:42pm
Dan Weber (www):
I think it is covered above but, if global warming exists and well educated liberal "environmentalists" aren't willing to make any sacrifices, what does that say about how seriously they view the problem?

Even if AGW is 100% real and those people 100% believe in it, this is still rational behavior. Selfish and despicable, but entirely rational.

Why should they sacrifice when the benefit goes to the whole planet?
10.23.2007 2:05pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
And when the whole planet except themselves can be made to pay?
10.23.2007 2:24pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Look, conservatives have every right to crow about this one and bash the Kennedys. (As far as I am concerned, if I never hear RFK, Jr. speak about the importance of the environment again it will be too soon.)

But underlying this, we must remember that the right answer is to start building these wind farms, not to deny the problem. One thing that the GOP might think about is attaching a rider to environmental bills that the Democrats want to pass overriding the local obstructions and permitting the construction of the wind farm.
10.23.2007 3:33pm
xxx (mail):
Just a question, can you see 5 miles out to sea from the shore?
10.23.2007 5:28pm
Ben R:
In answer to xxx, yeah, normally you can expect to see about 15-20 miles on a moderately clear day. They'd be visible, but it's not like they'd be dominating the view.
10.23.2007 5:35pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
Doesn't matter, xxx.

That's where Teddy K. sails, don'tcha know.
10.23.2007 5:36pm
Henry Bramlet (mail):
I think the Wind Farms on Altamont Pass in CA are awesome, but I can see why rational people would balk at their existence.

Very simply, those farms have basically completely reshaped that environment. You don't think of a wind-turbine as having that significant of a footprint (Maybe 16ft by 16 ft) but when you have hundreds that are all connected by service roads, you basically realize that you have just denied that entire region to any bird or other animal (non rodent) that requires a "pristine" environment.

Don't get me wrong- I am the first person to advocate teraforming projects that turn our environment into something more human-friendly. But don't fool yourselves: for the environment in which they are built, wind turbines are a disaster. And an environmentalist (I'm not one) should be very concerned with unleashing that anywhere.
10.23.2007 5:42pm
Paul A'Barge (mail):
May the soul of Teddy Kennedy rot in hell for eternity.
10.23.2007 6:00pm
D Davila (mail):
I would love to back the wind farmers, but in my case I live smack dab in the center of the San Jacinto Pass right outside Palm Springs, wind turbine central. It's not the noise, or seeing them that bothers me, but the complete lack of maintenance and the amount of dead ones out here that bugs me. I believe that when the majority of them were built, and maybe even continuing today, there were (are) huge tax writeoffs to build them. There are probably ten complete fields of them that are completely abandoned. I have no idea why they don't tear down the hundreds of smaller ones, and install new, more efficient ones, but they haven't. Until I see the ones here maintained properly, the old ones either renovated or removed, I have no sympathy for wind farms, nor believe that the owners are nothing other than tax writeoff specialists. I must admit however, that there are still some farms here, that do their maintenace, and have some very efficient generators, but they are by no means the majority.
10.23.2007 6:05pm
Scott Kirwin (mail) (www):

That's where Teddy K. sails, don'tcha know.


Maybe he's afraid he'll crash into one of the turbines when he's drunk.
/cheapshot
10.23.2007 6:09pm
Tesla (mail):
Irony. Many of the prominent and influential NIMBYs belong to the Oyster Harbors Club on Nantucket. The symbol of this esteemed club …?

A Dutch wind mill.
10.23.2007 7:01pm
amr (mail):
The hypocrisy is outrageous. It is the rich and powerful from both sides of the political spectrum in this instance. Anytime one of these %#$@%^&# talks about regular people having to sacrifice for the good of the nation and mankind, someone should get in their face and ask them about this. This is the old "do as I say, not as I do" BS. And if the Gore types and the Hollywood environmental crowd don't start speaking against these people, they will have shown they have zero credibility and integrity.
10.23.2007 7:02pm
Mike Ham (mail):
YOU PEOPLE DONT UNDERSTANND. THAAAAAATS WHERE I SAIL
/Ted Kennedy
10.23.2007 7:30pm
buzz (mail):
So bag the wind farm off the coast and build a nice little nuke plant on cape code instead. They can even put a little light house on it to appear rustic. Problem solved.
10.23.2007 7:32pm
anym_avey (mail):
But don't fool yourselves: for the environment in which they are built, wind turbines are a disaster.

That's funny, because out here on the front range plains where a majority of wind farm projects are presently being erected, the native environment was nothing to crow about before the construction crews moved in. The land is dry and covered with prarie grasses and small ground aninmals; trees are extremely scarce outside of riprarian zones. Once the new power lines go in to service the windfarm, you've never seen so many happy hawks in your life.

Also, projects are sometimes structured around existing roads to facilitate construction and reduce net project costs; there is inevitable disruption during the construction and sometimes there is an access driveway left in place here and there, but (1) that happens all the time anyway for small-scale oil and gas collection equipment and (2) usually, the turbines are erected, commissioned, locked, and then physically ignored unless a serious malfunction occurs. Most of their operations are managed remotely via electrical or fiber-optic communications back to the collection substation, which is itself unmanned most of the time.

I would love to back the wind farmers, but in my case I live smack dab in the center of the San Jacinto Pass right outside Palm Springs, wind turbine central. It's not the noise, or seeing them that bothers me, but the complete lack of maintenance and the amount of dead ones out here that bugs me. I believe that when the majority of them were built, and maybe even continuing today, there were (are) huge tax writeoffs to build them.

That was true for older windfarms, and part of what you may be witnessing is that the technology has improved and advanced substantially since the days when many of California's early farms were installed. Unfortunately, those turbines are probably obsolete, and the power systems equipment that collects the power and delivers it to the grid is likely unsuitable for a modern reconditioning project. Meaning, it would be a 60% tear-down and rebuild of the entire site.

Given that there are many virgin sites available for new projects all over the US, particularly in non-coastal western states where the regulatory and tax burden is a lot lower, the utility or LLC that owns that system may choose to just ignore the whole thing and write off the unproductive equipment as a loss, leaving the turbines wilt and rot on their own time. If that bothers you, do a property search to find out who actually owns the land and track back to the system owner from there (keeping in mind that the system owner may only be leasing it), then start lighting up phones in your municipal and/or county governments.

Keep in mind, though, that while physically broken wind turbines are definitely not operating, turbines not turning may just be at the wrong position relative to the wind at that point in time. You won't usually see all of them turning in any given area -- they won't all turn at low windspeeds because the wind patterns are disrupted by the lay of the land relative to the incomeing stream, and they'll also shut down automatically at wind speeds over about 50mph because the turbine blades might disintegrate (At full speed, a large turibine blade looks to be turning at a very moderate speed but the tip of the blade is moving circularly at 100mph.)

Meanwhile, the owners of new projects are definitely getting renewable energy credits; but modern turbines make these projects profitable even without the tax incentives, assuming you choose the site carefully.
10.23.2007 7:54pm
Holmes:
"If local NIMBYs defeat this project, it could produce an ill wind for offshore wind projects nationwide."

I doubt it. They'll find a locality where the proletariat don't have the political pull that the Cape Codians (sp?) have. I'm sure Kennedy would even be happy to vote to subsidize it.
10.23.2007 8:06pm
D Davila (mail):
Good points on all, avey.
As to the environmental damage, in our area it is virtually nil. I have a UTV and travel all through and around these areas and have never seen dead birds and such like under the blades. The dead ones I am discussing are the newer, larger ones, that have lost blades and the older ones are no doubt older technology that the owners have simply walked away from after they got what they wanted. Believe me, I know how they work and I know a lot about them, and often give tours to interested people.
They can be a tremendous power source, the latest GE models are said to generate 1.3 megawatts a year at buy in prices in the vicinity of 100K per kilowatt, no infrastructure included.I just wish these investors would take care of the mess they left behind, or new investors clear the existing farms and rebuild.
Hey, Cape Wind, lots of wind here, and lots of room to take over existing fields, come on down.
10.23.2007 8:40pm
Smokey:
D Davila:

Good post @ 5:05pm. Half [or more] of the windmills at the Altamont are stopped at any given time. About a week ago one collapsed and fell right on a car.

Oh, and The Economist recently reported that the new generation of windmills will have blades in excess of 100' diameter. Bring on the nukes!!

[not to be nitpicky, but that 1.3 megawatt figure for a windmill is certainly bogus windmill propaganda. A large coal-fired power plant produces maybe 800 MW. And windmills only work when there's enough wind. A nuke plant produces way, way more than 1,000 MW. Clean power, too - and not one American has ever been killed by a nuke power plant.]
10.23.2007 9:03pm
The Monster (mail):

Your blawg won't let me post the word dis count.

Dis‍count, dis‍count, dis‍count.

Hint: View Source to learn this trick.

(If the spammers ever figure it out, the anti-spam bots will have to adapt to stop it.)
10.23.2007 9:18pm
Cape Resident:
I own property on the Sound, so you may dismiss this if you like.

But I will say, I did think that advocating for one's own property was generally approved of by conservatives - especially in the face of what may reasonably be cast as a potential Government "taking".

Not all the residents of the Sound are hypocritical environmental liberals. This one, for example, is pretty conservative.

If the opponents of Cape Wind are at all correct about the negative impact, then it will not be the rich who suffer. Any negative impact sufficient to destroy views and property values will also destroy the local economy of the mid cape for people at all economic levels. A risk is being incurred and it is incurred by all, not just the wealthy property owners.

As for myself I'm not an opponent, I'm not worried about the view and if birds are impacted, hey, sorry, the Cape shoreline is long and we need the juice.

But the callow Schadenfreude exhibited here in the comments is distressing. I yield to no one in my contempt for Ted Kennedy but really the issue is larger than him.

It seems the liberal MSM is not the only institution to read their "narrative" onto what is in reality a fairly nuanced and complex local issue.
10.23.2007 9:19pm
The Monster (mail):
OK, so the source won't help after all. It's on this HTML Entities reference. That's the only clue I'll give.
10.23.2007 9:21pm
Mitch (mail) (www):
We're all over this.

Note that Mitt Romney was with the NIMBYs on this one.
10.23.2007 9:38pm
Tom Frank (mail):
Yes, you could see them from the shore.

They would have appeared to be about the size of your held up thumb.

Not much damage to the view, eh?

But to a Kennedy, even that amount of sacrifice is apparently too much.
10.23.2007 9:46pm
John123 (mail):
Nitpick: "and not one American has ever been killed by a nuke power plant"

Should say commercial nuke power plant, Army lost 3 people on AR1 back in the 50's
10.23.2007 10:12pm
Curt Wilson:
Cape Resident: Are you really concerned that being able to see these wind turbines as tiny specks on the horizon would destroy coastal property values and hence the local economy?

I suppose this would be just like the way the offshore oil rigs off Santa Barbara (which are much more visible than these would be) have completely destroyed the property values there...
10.23.2007 10:24pm
anym_avey (mail):
not to be nitpicky, but that 1.3 megawatt figure for a windmill is certainly bogus windmill propaganda. A large coal-fired power plant produces maybe 800 MW. And windmills only work when there's enough wind.

Actually, GE has wind turbines rated all the way up to 3.6MW, but at that rating you need a very large clearance (blade diameter is greater than 300 feet) and a fairly high continuous wind speed to run efficiently and recapture the investment. Offshore sites are typically ideal for this. On land, lesser ratings are more common. However, if you get enough of them over a large area feeding into one collector system, average power flow into the grid can be fairly high over long periods of time.

It is quite feasible for a medium-sized site (say, fifty turbines ranging from 750kW to 1.5MW) to be continuously matching or exceeding the output of a medium-size coal burner or two on a moderately windy day. The turbines may not be running at their maximum capacity, but unlike the coal fired plant, the wind turbines have very low maintenance costs, no fuel costs, and no emissions after the initial infrastructure investment. It's not a replacement for energy on the scale that the US demands it, but it's a very nice supplement.
10.23.2007 10:53pm
anym_avey (mail):
But I will say, I did think that advocating for one's own property was generally approved of by conservatives - especially in the face of what may reasonably be cast as a potential Government "taking".

I would expect that it is. However, whenever those with power or wealth presume to lecture the rest of us on the perils of environmental destruction, and demand that we all adopt lesser lifestyles or renewable energy resources...and then proceed to show a complete unwillingness to live by those words even to the point of a mild inconvenience, well, guess what? They will necessarily take crap for it. That's why Al "An Inconveniently Large House" Gore gets a round of raspberries for consuming a month's worth of utilities at a couple dozen times the national average, and it's why Ted "The Kennedy" Kennedy gets a bronx cheer for opposing Cape Wind.
10.23.2007 11:00pm
Cape Resident:
Cape Resident: Are you really concerned that being able to see these wind turbines as tiny specks on the horizon would destroy coastal property values and hence the local economy?

No, I think those risks are small, as I believe I made clear.

My issue is that those small risks are borne by more than just rich people on the shore.

If a developer encroached on your personal property and your own community in a similar manner I think you'd want to have the opportunity to judge the magnitude of those risks yourself, and not take the opinion of a hostile crowd eager to stick it to some (in)famous local resident (however much he has it coming).

All the more so if your community in question possessed an unspeakable natural beauty. Residence transcends mere posesion; stewardship is an imperative. Ah, but the risks are so small! Fine, you take them, then.

Again, I agree that the risks are small, but it irks me that those with nothing at stake are so cavalier about them.


However, whenever those with power or wealth presume to lecture the rest of us on the perils of environmental destruction, and demand that we all adopt lesser lifestyles or renewable energy resources...


You will not goad me into defending Teddy. (Actually, electrodes on my 'nads could not induce me to defend him). But please be aware that not all residents fit this charicature. If you want to engage in polemic and warp reality to a narrative, then fine, but be aware what you're doing.

I've been to residents meetings. To suggest the opposition is uniformly liberal and hypocritical is incomplete at best and decidedly unfair in many cases. But, hey, the narrative is so compelling I'm sure I won't dissuade many from expounding on it at every opportunity.
10.23.2007 11:46pm
Pink Pig (mail):
Do liberals really think that the American people aren't going to notice this and say to themselves that the environmoids Kennedy and Kerry are obvious hypocrites? Why should the average citizen put up with burdens that the "leadership" is not willing to shoulder? Oh, I know that liberals think they are simply smarter than everybody else, but in this country, they only get one vote, and if they can't bamboozle the population at large into supporting their ideology, how long will it be before they try to take the vote away from average Americans?
10.24.2007 12:44am
MarkJ (mail):
Hmmm, let's see what Teddy himself might say (after cribbing liberally from a famous older brother):

Let every wind farmer know, whether he wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure wind turbines stay out of Cape Cod....
10.24.2007 1:01am
Bruce H (mail):
Buzz,
That's an excellent suggestion, and one that made me laugh out loud. I think the lighthouse at the top would be the perfect addition to the nuke plant to make it fit in with the rest of the cape. Thank you!
10.24.2007 1:37am
Worcester Resident (mail) (www):
Cape Resident,

Off-shore windmills are great as tourist attractions. And really, are you expecting a significant drop-off in tourists because of a few specs on the horizon? You can't even drive down Rt 6 on a summer weekend. That's a bigger turn-off than something miles off-shore.
10.24.2007 11:10am
rhodeymark (mail):

Oren: Offer the fine folks in Newport, RI a discou nt rate on the power and I'm sure they'd jump on it

Ah, but you forgot the one major hitch in that plan. Who represents Newport in Congress? The Spawn...
10.24.2007 11:31am
neurodoc:
I think it is covered above but, if global warming exists and well educated liberal "environmentalists" aren't willing to make any sacrifices, what does that say about how seriously they view the problem?
L-A-U-R-I-E D-A-V-I-D? (I'd mention Al Gore here for his big "carbon footprint," but he just joined Jimmy Carter as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and he does buy all those "credits" to make up for his own daily contributions to global warming.)
10.24.2007 3:14pm
neurodoc:
I tend to agree with neurodoc, in that the extent of the Kennedy family's "influence" over Cape and Islands matters is far more than most non-Cape people can imagine.
If you and your family members were as bad on the road and as given to "playfulness" as the Kennedy clan, wouldn't you want to have "influence" over local affairs, most especially law enforcement? Seems only purdent to me, though I don't know who other than them could manage it to the extent they do. (And anyone who can't imagine it must not have memories that go back 38+ years.)

When Teddy was mending his good name after that unfortunate Chappaquidick business, one of his first projects was to involve himself in Vineyard affairs, aligning himself with the interests of individuals against those who wanted to develop property consistent with the zoning laws at the time, that is before Massachusetts enacted legislation that stopped them in their tracks, causing them and their lenders huge losses.

No, no narrow self-interests at work, plenty of noblesse oblige from the venu and parvenu.

(Gee, didn't realize there was this much sarcasm/cynicism within me just waiting to be released. But hypocrisy does have that effect on me.)
10.24.2007 3:29pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Cape resident,

Can you tell us what the government is "taking?"
10.24.2007 11:00pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Wow ... look at neurodoc thread-jumping to give a neuro-medico-esque G/W opinion of the Cape Wind Farm. Maybe neurodoc secretly owns property he is trying to dump before the G/W sea level rise swallows it and renders it worthless ocean bottom.
10.25.2007 3:33am
neurodoc:
Hi, Mary KD-P. Was I right that the "autism" is not of the PDD type, but rather "autism" in the way that Bleuler used that term years ago?
10.25.2007 6:44pm