Editorial: Wind energy is a bad bargain

Besides fearlessness — Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker appeared Sunday evening in the unforgiving Democrat precincts of Chilmark — Mr. Baker also demonstrated a reasoned devotion to data and math when it comes to the Patrick Administration’s swoon over wind energy. He said he couldn’t make sense of it. Neither can we, not of wind energy plants in the state and federal waters surrounding the Vineyard —but nowhere else at all in state waters — and not dotting the Vineyard landscape either.

Mr. Baker attended a panel discussion at the Chilmark Community Center hosted by POINT (Protect Our Islands Now for Tomorrow). As Times writer Janet Hefler explained, POINT was known as “Let Vineyarders Decide,” a grass-roots organization formed last September to protest the state’s Ocean Management Plan (OMP) for offshore industrial wind turbine development around Martha’s Vineyard. POINT invited the governor, who did not attend, and another gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill, who didn’t show up either but sent a statement.

Enthusiasm for the governor’s plan was in short supply among the Island panelists, who allowed themselves to expand windily on the evening’s topic. It was also in short supply among the 200 in attendance.

Mr. Baker, speaking after the panelists had exhausted themselves, was short and sweet.

“It’s a big-bet strategy economically, a big-bet strategy financially, a big-bet strategy environmentally, and a big- bet strategy technologically,” Mr. Baker said of Gov. Deval Patrick’s push for wind turbines and renewable energy that must be created in Massachusetts, a lot of it near us.

“I’m a data guy and a numbers guy, and always have been,” Mr. Baker said. “And my biggest issue with all the issues associated with offshore wind is I’ve never been able to figure out how the math works.”

It doesn’t work.

It’s all tax credits and subsidies, artificially inflated electricity rates, and political illusion. Mr. Baker said the projects require 15- to 20-year contracts to recover the investment plus profit. But, looking out another 20 years, he asked, “Do we really think buying power from wind farms that cost two and a half to three times per kilowatt hour over what we’re already paying as the fourth highest cost of electricity is an economically smart bet for the next 20 years?” Mr. Baker asked.

Mr. Baker, in his brief remarks, criticized the 2008 Green Communities Act requirement that renewable energy used in Massachusetts must be produced in the state. He asked, why not buy proven, sustainable, and cheap alternative energy from other sources, such as hydropower from Quebec. These are alternatives that the Patrick Administration would prohibit, in pursuit of wind turbines that will harm us, and cost us more while doing so.

“If somebody has already built a mousetrap, well, then take it,” Mr. Baker told the crowd at the Community Center. “You don’t have to invest in any of the risk associated with whether or not it works. Somebody else has already paid for that.”

POINT’s mission is an important one. The governor would surround the Vineyard with wind turbine factories and dot the Vineyard landscape with them also.

Weighing the benefits and detriments of wind power finds higher costs and little contribution to our energy future on the one hand and, on the other, enormous detrimental effects on the unique cultural, historic, environmental, and economic values that we enjoy and on which our economy is based. It’s too high a price.