At Large: The windy 10-year war

At Large: The windy 10-year war

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If you have been marveling at the other marathon, that is, the marathon, unanesthetized colonoscopy now being performed on the Stop & Shop project, history suggests that this is nothing new. When we fight, especially when we consider change, we insular types don’t flag, we don’t cave, we hold grudges, we fight on. Winston Churchill — “Never give in”  — would be proud. The fight over the Nantucket Sound Islands Trust legislation went on for years, followed by the fight over the Martha’s Vineyard Commission legislation, the fight over the creation of the Land Bank, the battle over the golf courses, the vicious and wearing conflict over the Ramsey-Counter land claim, and on and on, beyond remembering.

But, it may be that the fight over Cape Wind, still muttering on in the background, will one day be crowned the mother of all political wars. Cape Wind, more than a decade in the application-permitting-financing journey, has not erected a single turbine, not created a single volt of electrical power, and it’s better than even money that it never will.

If you are one of those who favor a clean, plentiful, growing, cheap supply of energy to support the growth of the American economy — and, naturally enough, its many subdivisions, including this tiny, remote (but not remote enough) outpost we call home — I urge you not to despair.

The state of Massachusetts, in its nutty devotion to wind-powered, ocean-based generating plants deployed, in cooperation with the federal government, in a strangling circle around the Vineyard, does not feel your pain. Indeed, the state’s aim is not only to conspire over the Cape Wind project, but to elbow aside valid economic and environmental concerns expressed by Islanders, to allow, no matter what local opinions may hold, wind factories to the east, west and north of us. It’s a plan whose benefits are immeasurably small and diminishing compared with new, less expensive land based technologies — especially solar, whose installation costs have plunged in the last few years. But, it’s a plan whose time, if it ever came, has now gone.

Among the drawbacks, and the Cape Wind deal with National Grid draws this out plainly, are the state’s policy determinations to allow the expansion of wind generation, no matter what the cost to residential and commercial customers and no matter whether the local targets agree to the intrusion. Wind-driven sea-based power will be significantly more expensive than energy produced by any other source, but the state endorses it, subsidizes it, and would protect its higher costs by attempting to block energy suppliers from buying less expensive power — even power from renewables — created out of state. Absent the politically forced premium to be paid for Cape Wind electricity, the development of that wind turbine factory could not be funded. Wind power needs such well-intentioned but foolishly conceived support, otherwise developers of wind-driven electricity would not find financing or a market. At this point, wind enthusiasts point to billions in subsidies extended to other energy producers, notably oil. But, although oil doesn’t create much electricity in the U.S., it is a vital, current transportation fuel, and for good reason. Oil produces powerful energy, and does it relatively cheaply. It’s been worth subsidizing.

The argument here is that the energy future of our economy will be built on electricity and transportation fuels. Oil, whether produced here or abroad, does not figure significantly in electricity generation now and will certainly figure only marginally in the equation as we move forward. But it predominates as a motor fuel and a raw material in too many manufacturing processes to count, and it will continue to do so until replacement technologies can be concocted or discovered that furnish the same dense, cheap power and hugely variable utility.

The keys to plentiful, growing, and inexpensive sources of electrical power are conservation (especially in homes and vehicles), natural gas, and nuclear power. Something better may come along, but it won’t be wind. And, political manipulation will not make ocean-based wind power more desirable, more economical to build, or more reasonably priced for consumers.

As is apparent after a decade of debate over Cape Wind, the industrialization of 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound and of the empty ocean southwest and northwest of the Vineyard will diminish valuable, wild, clean seascapes, in exchange for modest, intermittent supplies of high-priced electricity that will in the end depend on traditionally fueled, efficient, powerful, economically scalable electricity generators capable of reliably producing power when we need it. And, doing it less expensively on a much less profligate footprint.

The Cape Wind deal to sell the electric power that the planned Nantucket Sound wind farm would one day produce will cost electricity end-users billions more than conventionally produced power. That’s not because wind-driven electricity is better electricity, or more dependable, or more easily scaled up to meet growing demand, or less demanding of the natural environment — consider the marine acreage to be consumed — but it’s because the political climate insists on it, no matter the costs.

For someone with a native fondness for New Bedford, the Whaling City, I’m happy to report that the only valuable spinoff from the failing Cape Wind project is the rehabilitation of a portion of the New Bedford waterfront.

Gov. Deval Patrick selected a portion of New Bedford’s waterfront that will be resurrected to serve Cape Wind’s construction and maintenance needs as the staging area for its turbine factory at Horseshoe Shoals. It’s about $35 million in investments, now underway in the form of dredging and dock building. We’re likely never to feel a single jolt from electricity produced by Cape Wind, but at least a community that needs investment and jobs is getting a lift from the project, now in hospice care.

Comments

  1. Not a word about how the “opposition” to Cape Wind has come from deep-pocketed business interests whose income and power are threatened by “green” energy projects? “SOS” is a chimera. The day funding their astroturf project is pulled will be the day that resistance to this project disapears.

    1. Did you even read this excellent article? The author let the air out of the tires on the lack of Cape Wind merit, but you feel the need to mention the opposition as being on the Koch dole? Just what is “green” about this destructive fantasy called Cape Wind, and explain why the state is willing to extort its citizens.

      1. I most certainly did. That is why the comment on what the article omits. The need to mention the fact that SOS is manufactured “astroturf” opposition is appropriate. Particularly so in that your comment parrots their “talking points”. SOS/Kochs have spent tens of millions of dollars getting you to think this way.

        1. He is a fisherman, genius, he doesn’t have a Koch problem! Why do you support furthering crimes against nature in the name of saving it? Are you against the billions of dollars that green lobbyists have been spending on politicians to promote these utopian scams? You do know that CO2 emissions have decreased to 1990’s levels, almost entirely because of increased use of natural gas (not due to wind scams)?

          1. He failed to answer the real question, phil, Just what is “green” about this destructive fantasy called Cape Wind, and explain why the state is willing to extort its citizens.

          2. Too bad we aren’t on the Koch payroll $$$ at least then we might be getting paid for calling BS what it is, BS.

          3. heh, Some get paid Pew oil bucks t create BS! I’d have to say Tommy’s peeps would be them! lol

  2. The Patrick Administration has restructured the MA energy market seven times. The beneficiaries are Public Officials dabbling in renewable energy that requires public funding. Politics drives the debate because this is not about public interest served by reliable energy sources that are commercially reasonable. This is about crony capitalism and corporate welfare…no matter what it costs consumers, air travelers, mariners, commercial or recreational users of Nantucket Sound.

    1. So true, look at Ian Bowles. He helped push through the Cadillac Deval green agenda, then hopped over to the private sector to cash in on green businesses. Laughing all the way to the bank, while sticking the working stiffs with long term heavily inflated energy costs.

      1. Indeed. Look at Ian Bowles, former MA Executive Energy Secretary and Advisor to Flo-Design wind turbine that got a $3 million grant from Clean Energy Center (MACEC). Bowles is Founding Chairman of the MACEC that siphons ratepayer dollars to fund renewable schemes favored by MA Public Officials. Flo-Design also received $8.3 in stimulus.

        Ian framed the first in the U.S. Zoning map “Ocean Management Plan” that divests U.S. citizens of our precious ocean resource. Ian is the usher for the Green Communities Act (GCA) that represents a $4 billion dollar rate increase according to AG Coakley. The GCA was sponsored by convicted and sentenced Speaker DiMasi whose buddy, Jay Cashman, provides services to wind developers. Ian also served as Advisor to Harvest Power, and launched Rhumb Line Energy with three former staffers from the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, to service wind developers. Ian is also Co-founder and Managing Director of WindSail Capital Group, a Boston-based investment firm providing capital to emerging clean energy companies.

        He who writes the green rules wins in MA. That would include former Ex. SEC MA EOEEA Bowles. His former undersecretary was exec. VP with stock options at EnerNOC (energy efficiency) that garnered 20% of the state’s ARRA stimulus funding for a $10 million contract. Giudice’s team instituted the three-year energy efficiency plans for Massachusetts’ investor-owned utilities.

        What has the public to show for our $10 million to EnerNOC?

        Forbes [May 14,2012]: “Who’s a Fat Cat”, “Who is the most over paid?”

        “The most overpaid executives are at Comverge and EnerNOC,
        both in absolute millions of dollars, and as a percentage of market
        capitalization.”

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomkonrad/2012/05/14/whos-a-fat-cat/