Cape Wind seeks support here
More than 60 people braved frigid temperatures Monday night to hear an update on the regulatory progress of a proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
The meeting in the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven included remarks by Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind Associates and the man behind the plan to place 130 wind turbines on Horseshoe Shoal.
Cape Wind received a significant regulatory boost last month. After a two-year review, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) released a favorable draft environmental impact statement on the project. The U.S. Department of the Interior agency plans to issue its final recommendations later this year.
The developers and Clean Power Now, a Cape-based citizens group of alternative energy supporters, sponsored the meeting in anticipation of four MMS public hearings. One is scheduled for the Vineyard on March 12 in the performing arts center at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.
Much of the evening was devoted to describing the reasons there is an immediate need to develop alternative sources of energy. Speakers cited global warming, air pollution, environmental degradation of coastal resource areas, and increasing global competition for diminishing supplies of fossil fuels.
Cape Wind would provide approximately three quarters of the electricity needed to power Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket, said supporters, by using a resource that is free and readily available.
The presentation included a short film about Nysted, a seaside community in Denmark that has 72 turbines located 6 miles off its coast. The featured speakers, including the mayor of Nysted, described their initial apprehensions and ultimate embrace of windpower.
Mr. Gordon told those in the room that at the time of the first OPEC embargo 33 years ago the country imported 28 percent of its oil. That number is now 60 percent. "It certainly is one of the greatest failures of national leadership that we find ourselves in this position," he said.
During the question and answer period that followed, Mark Rodgers, a Cape Wind spokesman, reassured commercial conch fisherman Bill Alwardt of Oak Bluffs that construction would not affect the fishing grounds. The cables would be buried and there would be no need to dispose of sediment because the turbine supports are hollow and would be pounded into the sea floor.
Everett Jones of West Tisbury questioned the vulnerability of the business plan to the price of oil. Mr. Gordon said that, as difficult as the regulatory process is, the scrutiny from the financial community would be tougher and it would not move forward unless the plan was sound.
Bob Skydell of Chilmark thanked Mr. Gordon for sticking with his project for more than seven years. He said that if Cape Wind can provide the Cape and Islands with energy and make money doing it "good for him." Seeing that, said Mr. Skydell, more companies would follow his example.
Asked by a Times reporter why, given that Democrats support all of the points made that night, Senator Ted Kennedy opposed Cape Wind, Mr. Gordon was circumspect. "You'll have to ask him that question," said Mr. Gordon. "We would like his support."
Barbara Hill of Hyannis, Clean Power Now executive director, was more critical in her assessment of the Senate leader and his opposition. "I think it's a visual thing," she said.
Senator John Kerry, a Nantucket seasonal resident, continues to vacillate. His position is to wait for the final report, she said.
Ms. Hill said that in October she had an opportunity to meet Senator John McCain and describe the wind energy project to him. She asked if he would support it. "He said, 'absolutely, I'd support that project.'" Ms. Hill said the issue of alternative energy cuts across political lines and needs to be part of a national conversation. "This is bigger than Cape Cod," she said.