To the Editor:
General enthusiasm for renewable energy seems to have led to a pause in critical thinking on the impacts of Vineyard Wind’s proposed marine terminal in Vineyard Haven, and an unspoken assumption that no level of deficits can outweigh projected benefits. I disagree. I question both the marine terminal project and assumptions underlying the broader Vineyard Wind project.
- Need? Have the applicants demonstrated a need for this facility? The port of New Bedford is already developing a marine terminal to service the offshore wind industry, stating that it is “one of few marine industrial working waterfronts on the East Coast that is home to a full suite of shoreside services that can support diverse industries” (portofnewbedford.org/offshore-wind).
And then there is Salem: ”Salem slated to become second major port city in Mass. for offshore wind industry; Deal with Vineyard Wind and Crowley Maritime would redevelop unused waterfront land around gas-fired power plant,” announced the Boston Globe on Sept. 30. That site is also a repurposed industrial site.
And there is North Kingstown, R.I., where Atlantic Wind Transfers, a company servicing offshore wind turbines, has its base at Quonset Point, whence it plans also to operate as far away as Virginia (atlanticwindtransfers.com).
Three support-services sites in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are enough.
- Town character. Vineyard Haven is not a city looking to repurpose an existing industrial waterfront. Vineyard Haven is an integral part of Massachusetts’ tourist industry. It would be better for the town to think in terms of enhancing the view from the ferries and the shoreline’s appeal for both tourists and residents, rather than to turn more of the shoreline to a light industrial site.
- Has a “cradle-to-cradle” analysis of the terminal been done to calculate the energy and materials inputs of its construction and operation? Will all of the vessels and vehicles that will service the offshore installations be e-vessels and e-vehicles? Doubtful.
- Jobs. About 40 jobs seem to be the only direct benefits of the project to the Vineyard. But are there any guarantees that the jobs will be filled by Vineyarders? Is this even legally possible for a project that receives state and federal subsidies?
A marine terminal to support Vineyard Wind’s offshore power plant operations brings no obvious direct benefits to Vineyard Haven and the Island besides an unknown number of jobs. Moreover, the idea that this project will be an engine of economic development sounds like pie in the sky, unless the business plan rests on regular infusions of government subsidies on a long horizon.
Advocates of the renewables project downplay environmental and other deficits as they promise a zero-emissions paradise that wind and solar can never deliver. It is established science that feeding low-density, intermittent energy sources into the grid requires predictable, high-intensity fuel sources — fossil or nuclear — to balance generation by ensuring a consistent base load. Intermittent renewable energy sources can never cut this umbilical cord.
In the U.K. this past summer, wind blades were becalmed; coal-fired plants were quickly brought back online (“UK Fires Up Coal Power Plant as Gas Prices Soar,” BBC, Sept. 7, 2021). As Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University, a member of the Vineyard Conservation Society board of directors, has stated, “Renewables are not green” once you compute all of the actual inputs (“Power-Hungry podcast,” Oct. 12, obertbryce.com/power-hungry-podcast, ca. 00:48).
To be sure, some renewables are denser than others. Another “dog that didn’t bark” issue is the inexplicable neglect of research into technologies that exploit the “densest” and most predictable form of renewable energy: ocean energy. Why has all the investment — and the
hoo-hah — been put into low-density wind and solar (see “Ocean Energy Basics,” nrel.gov/research/re-ocean.html)?
Professor Kerry Emanuel, a climate expert at MIT, has stated that the environmental movement has pushed “the fantasy of 100 percent renewables, overlooking the bad environmental outcomes of those energy sources.” A better long-term investment may well be building state-of-the-art nuclear plants (see Kerry A. Emanuel, “Nuclear Salvation,” texmex.mit.edu/pub/emanuel/papers/Nuclear_Salvation.pdf).
In pursuit of the renewables-only “fossil-free by 2030” dream, people who deem themselves environmentalists deem huge swaths of natural habitat and precious irreplaceable animal and plant communities dispensable, including the deep seabed (Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Deep,” New
Yorker, June 21). Are gigantic offshore wind power plants that may have a working life of under 20 years worth the negative environmental outcomes of turning the Atlantic Ocean south of the Vineyard into an industrial zone? Of gambling with the breeding grounds needed by the endangered right whale in hopes of winning our “green” dream (“Nantucket group sues to block
Vineyard Wind project,” Vineyard Gazette, August 26)?
Decisionmakers and citizens must come to terms with the physics of the electricity grid that constrains the success of ongoing efforts to reach “zero emissions” via wind and solar power plants; the challenges of toxic waste disposal posed by both wind and solar; and the actual financial costs to consumers and steep costs to the planet of constructing extensive renewables “farms” on land and sea.
For some basic and often surprising facts and figures comparing actual costs and benefits of different energy sources and other countries’ actual renewables experience, see “Why renewables can’t save the planet” (youtube.com/watch?v=N-yALPEpV4w) and
“Why I changed my mind about nuclear power” (youtube.com/watch?v=ciStnd9Y2ak), both by Michael Shellenberger.