Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to decide on the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound and is so doing possibly pass judgment on the entire proposition of ocean wind energy for the foreseeable future here in the US. A decision not to allow Cape Wind to proceed will certainly put the Big Chill on offshore wind power. Conversely, a Cape Wind approval would be a a huge vote of confidence for an industry that is expected to provide nearly 400 billion dollars of economic activity over the next decade.
Personally, I am in favor of approving Cape Wind. While there are bona fide concerns regarding visual, historical, recreational, and environmental impacts, those impacts do not in my mind overwhelm the incredible benefits that will flow from opening up our near shore waters to clean energy development. Regarding projects of the size and scope of Cape Wind, somebody’s ox always gets gored. The only question is whether the good done is greater than the sum total of the impacts. And by all estimates, responsible development of near shore wind resources stands to provide huge benefits for a country that claims to want to burn less fossil fuels and make strides towards energy independence. Indeed, without tapping our near shore wind resources it is very unlikely that we will be able to provide much more than 5% of our nation’s energy from renewables and that is just not enough.
Yet, there are those who say the cost of the Cape Wind is prohibitively expensive, while others counter that while expensive, the project will still provide billions of dollars of savings over the course of its operational life.
In what many see as a giant step backwards, Salazar recently opened up much of the Mid Atlantic and Alaskan seaboards to offshore oil development. Was the offshore oil decision a foretelling of a Cape Wind approval or rather an indication of a total collapse of resolve on the part of the Obama administration to make good on their earlier claims of wanting to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to foster green energy?
One thing is very sure, either way Salazar/Obama go regarding Cape Wind when coupled with the recent decision approving offshore drilling will very likely tell us what we can expect regarding offshore wind’s contribution to your nation’s energy mix for the foreseeable future.