At Large : The non-renewables
The Cape Wind 130-turbine renewable energy wind-farm project is planned for that odd and surprising hernia of federal waters that pops into Nantucket Sound over Horseshoe Shoals. And now, in our eagerness for renewables, the near-shore state waters along the Vineyard's shores and those of Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay may host smaller turbine installations and other non-carbon energy developments. Neither the state nor its Oceans Act governs Cape Wind, but as regards everything else roundabout, the state has extended its authority.
The ocean management plan draft, a derivative of the state legislature's Oceans Act, is part of an effort to regulate and guide offshore developments, including wind turbines, cables and pipelines, and even sand mining projects. We reported last week that about two percent of state waters would, under this first draft, be opened to commercial wind development, capable of supporting about 600 total megawatts, enough to power up to 200,000 homes, according to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The news came with what one supposes were intended to be comforting assurances that the Martha's Vineyard Commission and the Cape Cod Commission will, according to this plan, have review authority over such industrial development within their respective jurisdictions. One suspects that means the power to waterboard prospective energy developers, but not the unilateral power to outright quash the proposals, much as the MVC can review Chapter 40B affordable housing proposals but may not be free to say simply, "Hell, no."
The focus is on renewables, the energy sources that we imagine will displace carbon-based sources in the future as, to make it so, we constrain and tax abundant oil, natural gas, and coal supplies into undeserved oblivion. Good luck to us, I suppose.
But, bearing in mind the allure of the renewables, one despairs of what is non-renewable about the near shore waters we have till now enjoyed and exploited so enthusiastically, so exultantly and, doing so, realized such relaxation, delight, beauty, challenge, and freedom. The fog-drenched, tide-wracked, mysteriously meandering sandy shoals over which Cape Wind will be built will not be Horseshoe Shoals after the 130 turbines are in place. The energy we're told the turbines will yield may be renewable. Horseshoe Shoals is not. Neither are the alongshore waters over which the Oceans Act will impose itself. The turbine installations, the sand mines, the cable conduits, and whatever other developments may be attracted to these waters will extinguish, to an important degree, the lovely, free, non-renewable nature of these salt water acres.
So, if it will be, what's in it for us? Not much of value, weighing renewable gain and non-renewable loss. The president and others may promise that with spurs to wind farm developments and taxes and caps on carbon fuels, we'll double the amount of renewable energy the nation produces in a few years, but what does that really mean?
Robert Bryce, the managing editor of Energy Tribune, writing in March 2009, in the Wall Street Journal, explains, "The key problem facing [President] Obama and anyone else advocating a rapid transition away from the hydrocarbons that have dominated the world's energy mix since the dawn of the Industrial Age, is the same issue that dogs every alternative energy idea: scale.