It’s time to rethink this whole business of wind turbines, land-based or at sea


It is modestly encouraging to learn, as we do this week, that Massachusetts and Rhode Island are conspiring over big time wind energy development in federal waters off the coasts of the two states.

The encouragement derives from the certain, and acknowledged, exposure of the failure of the Deval Patrick administration to do the extensive planning and investigative work that ought to have undergirded Massachusetts’ Oceans Act and the plan that oozed from it.

Rhode Island did a better job of due diligence, and though offshore wind energy strikes us as a silly enthusiasm in which to invest, at least if the result is that Massachusetts leaves the heavy lifting to Little Rhody and blunts its interest in wind turbines near the Vineyard shores, well, that’s good. The farther away these expensive behemoths get built, if they are ever built, the better. And, if they must be built in what have been wild empty seascapes, delightful to sailors and fruitful for fishermen and merchants, better they were built upon a platform of sound preparation, with which Rhode Island has been credited.

But, the question is — will Massachusetts reflect upon its complacency with regard to Cape Wind, also destined for federal waters but by a quirk of cartography federal waters on Horseshoe Shoals, a stretch of open water as wild and free as any distant ocean tract but nestled in the holiday triangle formed by Cape Cod, Nantucket, and the Vineyard?

Massachusetts’ planning for ocean wind development is inadequate. The state has recognized the more competent effort made in Rhode Island. The state’s consideration of Cape Wind deserves a second visit. This is the moment to press for a tougher look at the wind energy question, at sea and on land.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission is up against a deadline for rules that must be adopted by Island towns in November for wind plants built offshore, and in December for turbines planned on the Vineyard itself. The Commonwealth — we think in recognition of the Vineyard’s vigorous efforts to control onshore and near shore wind factories — has demurred and turned its attention westward. We think it is time to press the state further and harder, and to insist on a full-on reassessment of the wisdom of wind plants along the shores of Dukes County and the wisdom of large turbines on the Island itself.

This page finds itself in sympathy with Stanley Fish, writing on September 21 in The New York Times. Mr. Fish discusses the impact of turbines now invading farmers’ fields in genuinely rural upstate New York. He considers the modest advantages and the considerable discouragements that ultimately face the civilian hosts to these turbines. Were they scammed, he asks.

“So the question is,” Mr. Fish writes, “why should they say yes to the destruction of everything they value about their way of life? Why should they submit to being beaten over the head with a moral club — “you are just selfish elitists” — that has behind it almost nothing at all? There’s no benefit to the individual, who often ends up paying higher energy bills; little benefit to the town besides (sometimes) an initial cash payment; a questionable benefit to the grid, especially when you calculate the energy costs of installing these behemoths and the necessity of fallback energy when the wind doesn’t blow; but lots of benefits to the developers who are described … as carpetbaggers, pod people, and traveling salesmen for whom the only green that counts is the color of money.”