Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Wind Turbines Proposed for Buzzard's Bay May Be a Vision of Long Island Sound's Future

Prepare to get closer to your energy source. While Cape Wind, the proposal to put wind turbines off Cape Cod, seems to die and be revived with each passing week, a Boston-based developer is proposing a slightly smaller wind-energy generation project for Buzzards Bay. To me it raises an obvious possibility: wind energy projects for Long Island Sound.

The developer of the Buzzard’s Bay project is a fellow named Cashman (seriously) and he wants to put 90 to 120 turbines between the Elizabeth Islands and New Bedford. At its peak, the wind project would generate 300 megawatts (Cape Wind would produce 420 megawatts). According to the Cape Cod Times, he’ll file his formal application on Friday. (Here's today's Boston Globe account.)

In the meantime, Congress will soon consider a Coast Guard bill that has a provision that would allow the Massachusetts governor to veto Cape Wind. Senators Ted Kennedy and his unlikely ally, Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska, inserted the provision, knowing that Mass Governor Mitt Romney opposes Cape Wind. But there’s been a backlash, and the fate of the provision is unknown (certainly to me, anyway).

I started by saying, “Prepare to get closer to your energy source.” The Energy Outlook blog argues that breaking our dependence on oil will mean that we’ll have to accept that our energy will come from many, smaller generators closer to where we live. There’s already some kind of proposal by a company called Winergy, for turbines off Orient Point. How long will it be before we start to see plans for more elsewhere in Long Island Sound?

While we’re talking about energy, if you feel the need to read something that will make you sick, read this: General Motors is offering to subsidize gasoline prices for people in Florida and California who buy GM cars over the next couple of months. Now that might be an honorable way to create an incentive for the sale of small, fuel-efficient cars. But the vehicles that qualify for the subsidy aren’t small and aren’t fuel-efficient. They are the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, the GMC Yukon, a couple of Hummers, and the Cadillac SRX – gas-pigs all.

I understand the company is working on a new slogan: General Motors – Speeding the Onset of Global Warming.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Bryan Brown said...

Tom,

The likelihood for other wind turbine projects off LI will depend on the whether the environmental community is truly willing to exploit (in the good sense) this energy resource, or merely be happy to let LIPA spend money with little to no oversight for projects like Jones Beach.

Case in point: LIPA's Phase I wind energy study identified the waters off Montauk as the best location for wind turbines. LIPA's Phase II study then drew a 10-mile circle around Montauk and said off limits, too dangerous for birds.

According to these reports, NRDC, NYPIRG, CAP and CCE were participants. Did they sign off on these conclusions? To this day, I haven't seen LIPA's conclusions challenged or even addressed by the environmental community. It's a striking contrast...MA Audubon signing off on Cape Wind, satisfied that the birds will be safe, vs. LI residents willing to let a valuable wind resource go unexploited because LIPA doesn't have the guts deal with the NIMBY outcry sure to follow.

Is Nantucket Sound different than the waters off Montauk viz. migratory birds? Not being a biologist, I don't know, but I wouldn't rely on LIPA and its experts to tell me. I would rely on the local Audubon Society and other groups to make the case for or against.

LIPA played this one well. They avoided the fight. When attention does turn to the need for more (and better-sited) wind projects, who is going to fight for it? LIPA can sit back, out of the line of fire of the NIMBY's because they took the easy way out.

The conclusions of LIPA's Phase II wind study viz. bird impacts should not go unchallenged by the environmental community. Nor should LIPA's argument that the landside distribution infrastructure is unavailable or inadequate. Build it, expand it, and make it work.

People seem happy to look in other people's backyards and pass judgment (e.g., Robert Kennedy viz. the Hudson Riverkeeeper's endorsement of the Jones Beach wind project while Kennedy opposes Cape Wind). We need to focus on our own backyard because, as you correctly point out, we will be getting closer to our energy sources, whether we like it or not.

1:12 PM  

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