Cape Wind Project
The Cape Wind project, when completed, will install 130 wind turbines capable of producing 420 megawatts of power, which is estimated to be 3/4 of the total power needs of Cape Cod and the surrounding islands. Those that are in favor of the project cite the fact that the American Lung Association reports findings of Cape Cod having the worst air quality in Massachusetts. The Cape Wind project will improve the air quality, as well as could potentially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 734,000 tons/year.
Reducing energy costs is an important factor for residents living in Cape Cod. The Massachusetts Energy Facility Siting Board reports that in the last 5 years alone, energy costs have more than doubled in Cape Cod. The Cape Wind project could potentially relieve residents by lowering the overall costs of electricity, supplying them with emission free wind energy. Furthermore, the project plan calls for the creation of nearly 1,000 jobs to assemble the wind turbines and for ocean construction work. 150 of the jobs will be permanent. .In 2007, Cape Wind filed a final Environmental Impact Statement with Massachusetts, which was later approved and given a 'favorable' decision in January 2009. The findings in the report were such that "the degree of displacement and amount of habitat loss should represent a transitory and negligible effect to the overall population of species." Also included in the report was a section that compared environmental monitoring reports from European wind farms with potential effects of the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts. The FEIS used data from monitoring reports at two Danish demonstration wind farms.
The opposition to the Cape Wind project revolves around potential stressors placed on marine life, migratory sea birds, scenic views, and tourism in the Cape Cod area. Many of the opposition are Cape Cod residents and environmental groups. They fear that the wind farm will detract from the pristine beauty of Cape Cod, while also detracting from the experience of weekend fishers, scenic boat tours, and other forms of tourism. Despite the FEIS showing positive results from the Danish wind farms, this is the first project of its kind in the United States, and no federal or state agency has experience in evaluating the long-term effects of an offshore wind farm. In the FEIS, in the monitoring and mitigation section, the report states that "no federal or state agency has past experience evaluating how projects such as the proposed action will interact with the marine environment...".
Another group of people, the Native American Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, has opposed the Cape Cod wind project due to the interference with tribal customs. Traditionally, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe would wake in the morning to gaze at the first light across the ground, uninhibited by any obstructions. The wind farm would pose an obstruction that Mashpee Wampanoag tribesmen believe would force them to yield a part of their identity.
Despite all the opposition it wasn't enough to stall the final decision to allow the Cape Wind Project to move forward. However, there are some groups in the Cape Cod area that plan to continue to sue the decision, stalling the progress of the project. Among these groups are environmental and tribal groups. The Cape Cod wind project, although the first to be approved in the U.S., is expected to be followed by several other offshore wind projects. There are currently 12 offshore wind projects pending approval. And with the vast amount of wind resources in the United States, there are sure to be more.
In The News
U.S. Dep't of Interior OKs Cape Wind