Wind energy advocates scored a huge victory today with the announcement from U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the country's first offshore wind farm, dubbed Cape Wind, will be built in the Nantucket Sound. The 130-turbine development could provide up to 75% of all electricity for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket.
Land turbines abound in the U.S., but the $1 billion Cape Wind offshore project has been mired in controversy for the better part of the past decade. Opponents of the project argue that it will stand on sacred Indian ancestral grounds, mar the local landscape (potentially blocking the Kennedy compound's view of Nantucket sound!), hurt prospects for local fishermen who rely on areas that will disappear when the development is built, and interfere with airplane radar. The project could also raise electricity prices for local residents—electrical grid and transmission line improvements for Cape Wind may cost up to $10 billion.
Supporters argue, on the other hand, that Cape Wind will open up the U.S. to much-needed offshore projects. And if that comes at the comparatively small expense of the local landscape, so be it. "The U.S. offshore wind industry will build on the success and the lessons learned from the nearly 20 years of experience in Europe to provide clean, pollution-free, electricity along the coasts and in the Great Lakes. In fact, American manufacturers have announced plans to build factories in Europe to service the robust offshore wind industry there. With policy support in the America we can incent that new manufacturing sector to build here", said Denise Bode, the CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. Our recent polling shows that wind works for America—it means new manufacturing jobs, less dependence on imported energy, and more pure, clean, affordable energy for our country."
In addition to providing jobs and opening up the U.S to more offshore developments (Salazar says that Cape Wind is the first of many projects along the coast), Cape Wind will also cut CO2 emissions by almost 1 million tons per year, or approximately 1% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts.
There are still plenty of hurdles to cross before Cape Wind can be built—nine permits are in the midst of being appealed, and nearly a dozen groups have threatened to sue—but ultimately, the project's green light is a good sign for our clean energy future. If we really want to wean ourselves off coal and stall climate change, we have to be willing to make some political sacrifices. This proves that the U.S. is ready to do just that.