Earth News Journal 47: U.S. Offshore Wind Farm

As a nation long-known for our dependence on non-renewables like coal and oil, America may see a slight ‘shift in the winds,’ energy speaking, in the forthcoming years.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Programs Office has recently announced a commitment to Cape Wind, a Nantucket-based wind farm project expected to launch America into the market of sustainable offshore wind energy.

Already approved and partially funded for several years, Cape Wind was merely awaiting financial support from the federal government. Now, “DOE’s conditional guarantee…makes the U.S. government a participant in the financing of America’s first offshore wind farm,” according to Cape Wind’s Mark Rodgers.

Construction in the Nantucket Sound could realistically take place before the end of the calendar year, if finances are concluded by this same time, as well. Rodgers expects, should the financial predictions be fulfilled as planned, for “ocean construction [to] begin in 2015…[the farm to] start producing electricity by the end of 2016, with the full project commissioned in 2017.”

Cape Wind’s legal history speaks to its reputation of persistence – dozens of law suits dating back to 2003, with 26 victories in legal challenges overall. “Our opponents…have an overwhelmingly losing track record,” Rodgers commented.

Primary Cape Wind opposition stems from the supposed loss in aesthetic value along the coastline, with views marred by turbines, should the construction take place. High costs are also another concern with the project’s opponents, though Peter Davidson, executive director of the DOE Loan Programs Office, contends that the additional costs can be minimized with time. “As we’ve seen with onshore wind and utility-scale solar, as more projects are built, prices come down.” The European market for commercial wind is over 20 years old, yet it’s the fastest growing power sector, with industry currently “booming.”

“Offshore wind is uniquely scalable to deliver large blocks of carbon free clean energy to urban populations on the U.S. East Coast. It can do that more effectively than other sources of renewable energy and as we develop it the price will come down just as we’ve seen with other technologies,” assures Rodgers.

The environmental impacts to the Sound have also been carefully scrutinized, with years of research dedicated to monitoring the area’s bird and aquatic wildlife. Such results have been affectionately received by the local environmental community: “most environmental groups have come to support Cape Wind’s ability to produce clean energy, and been satisfied that environmental impacts can be mitigated.” An assuring statement to those looking to Cape Wind as a billowing gust of hope for America’s clean energy future.

Reflection

For a country as riddled with environmental woes as America, it sure is comforting to hear of news pertaining to the progressive side of our nation’s eco-friendly agenda. The budding promise of this offshore wind farm and what it could offer the United States is profound; I truly believe that we can have success from this project, with many more like it to come. America is a land of coasts – “from sea to shining sea,” as they say – surely we have coastal views to spare for the sake of environmental cleanliness. I think it rather indignant of those individuals who argue the loss of ‘aesthetic’ seashore views. Mother Nature didn’t just bestow upon the seaward traveler the marina view – she gave us the mountains, the plains, and the sloping, wooded hills. But we’ve squandered these inland masterpieces, piling up our trash in stench-cloaked landfills, paving our way through the countryside in asphalt-hugging vehicles. We almost deserve to lose a bit of ocean view, for the views we so marred on the inside of our nation. Give and take, that’s the ancient mantra of the Universe. Perhaps, we would be ‘taking’ a few miles of aquamarine blue away from East Coast beach-goers, but the environment would be ‘giving’ us a cleaner alternative source of fuel – one that we can breathe easy about. And if Europe has had success, then why shouldn’t we, as well? 

Handwerk, Brian. “First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Wins Federal Funds, Courtroom Fights.” National Geographic. N.p., 17 July 2014. Web.

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