Summer II Group 1

Abstract

This article is concerned with the proposal to create an offshore wind farm in the Nantucket Sound just south of Cape Cod. The proposed project will contain 130 wind turbines capable of producing up to 468 megawatts of electricity for the Cape. Cape Wind has been a slow moving project, mostly due to controversy. Appropriate approvals have been slowly manifesting and driving the project forward, but many issues still need to be addressed. The proposed selling price of the electricity created by the farm is twice as high as the current rates in Massachusetts and many local business owners and citizens are concerned with the unpleasant sight of domineering wind turbines tarnishing the beauty of the ocean on the horizon. Local native tribes also make claims that the construction violates the sanctity of their native lands. The inconsistent nature of wind energy also poses questions regarding the regulation of the electricity that enters the power grid. Changes in power outputs from the generators could cause future issues that will need to be addressed if the project plans to succeed. The position of the article is against Cape Wind to construct the wind farm in the location and manner described by Cape Wind Associates, LLC and proposes possible alternative solutions to the current Cape Wind project.

Wind: A Costly Renewable

Can wind energy uphold a state’s electricity demand while maintaining a state’s financial needs? The scientific community has searched for many answers to the growing demand of electricity and the ever present concern for the environment. As a result, wind turbines have gotten plenty of attention from not just the scientific community but also from the government and the public sector. As time goes on, the majority of the scientific community is pushing the government to further research and development of wind turbines while the public sector is quite skeptical of the costs that come with it and the aesthetics of their land. While it seems that all communities involved in this controversy conclude there should be a cleaner more efficient energy source, the questions arises: Who pays for it? And will it contribute to the environment and energy demand enough to justify a higher cost? Although greenhouse gas emissions may diminish significantly with the use of wind turbines, the high cost and inefficiencies make shallow water, offshore wind energy an insufficient alternative energy source.

Background on Wind Energy

Wind turbines utilize the natural occurrence of the earth’s convection system, hot air rising and cool air falling, which creates wind that turns large fan-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to a generator which creates electricity (Wind). The electricity is then converted to the correct frequency and supplied to the grid.
Wind is a completely renewable resource that will be around for a very long time, if current weather models remain consistent. According to certain recent articles, there have been historical declines in measured near-surface wind speeds, leading some to question the continued viability of the wind energy industry. However, current generation of regional climate models show, at least for the next 50 years, the wind resource in the regions of greatest wind energy penetration will not move beyond the historical envelope of variability (Pryor).

World wind power resources are abundant, but their utilization could be limited because wind fluctuates rather than providing steady power (Kempton). Sadly, when the wind does not effectively maintain an adequate speed, the lights literally seem to dim on wind energy. Since wind turbines operate on a 40% efficiency rating (opposed to coal’s 95%) and it relies on cyclical wind, it remains a supplemental power supply. During low-wind weather patterns fossil fuel power plants must compensate the loss of wind energy. Robert Bryce wrote in his column that “the inefficient cycling of generators made to run continuously creates more emissions than running constantly.” (“Is Wind…”) Furthermore, the majority of wind farms displace natural gas-fired generators. Natural gas emits the least amount of greenhouse gases among the fossil fuels.

Offshore Wind Potential

Accordingly, key to the success of wind farms, a cluster of wind turbines in a concentrated area, is a consistent, high-velocity (since it must maintain a constant direction as well) wind. To be worthwhile, the average wind speed must be near 15.5 miles/hour. The best places for wind farms are in coastal areas, at the tops of rounded hills, open plains and gaps in mountains - places where the wind is strong and reliable (“Energy…”). Willet Kempton and other scientists, hypothesize in Electric Power from Offshore Wind via Synoptic-Scale Interconnectio interconnecting a series of wind farms along the east coast could potentially mitigate the up-and-down cycle of wind energy output. It would at least slow the cycle enough to give the proper time for the fossil fuel burning plants to compensate for wind impediments. The theory is based on five years of wind data from eleven meteorological stations, distributed over a 2,500 km extent along the U.S. East Coast. The power output for each hour at each site is calculated (Kempton). Although offshore wind may cost more, some scientists are pointing in that direction for the answer to wind energy.

Here enters Cape Wind. Cape Wind is the first offshore wind farm project in the United States still in the planning and approval process. It is located off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and it has caused quite a controversy among the working citizens of Cape Cod, the government and the scientific community.

The Cape Wind Controversy

Since the birth of the Cape Wind project in November, 2001 (Rodgers) there has been a great deal of debate regarding its benefits to the people of the cape and . Cape Wind Associates, LLC plans on erecting 130 wind turbines in the Horseshoe Shoal off the coast of Cape Cod to provide 75% of the Cape’s energy demand. The proposed turbine array footprint will be 25 square miles while the lease area is 46 square miles as seen in the image to the left1.

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Once completed, the project has the potential to reduce 734,000 tons of carbon emissions and 113 gallons of gasoline per year while generating 468 megawatts of electricity (Cape Wind).

The project itself has gained momentum among government officials in the last few years as more requests to appropriate bureaus are approved. On April 18, 2011, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, BOEMRE, issued and Environmental Assessment of the Project. In the assessment, no new negative impacts were found for the proposed construction, except a potentially minor to moderate effect on migratory birds (BOEMRE, iv).

Although proposed project has minimal potential to damage the environment, the overall effects of the project are expected to be noticeable. In the same Assessment, it is mentioned that the turbines have the potential to slightly alter the microclimate of Cape Cod and the Nantucket sound in the form of wake clouds. The large propellers all changing airflow patterns may redirect low-lying cloud cover back towards the Cape, increasing potential for fog (BOEMRE, v). There is also a potential for oil leakage from the proposed wind farm. One part of the proposed system is the electronic service platform, or ESP. This is where the voltage of the electricity is increased and sent to the onshore power grid. According to the Assessment release by BOEMRE, in the worst case scenario, up to 42,000 gallons of oil could possible leak from the ESP (BOEMRE, v).

Citizens Against Cape Wind

The leading voice of the people against the development of Cape Wind is a non-profit organization riddled with business CEO’s, long-term cape residents and even some government officials called Save Our Sound. The organization started in 2001 when the proposed Cape Wind was brought to Massachusetts. Its mission is the long-term preservation of Nantucket Sound. It is important to understand the alliance supports wind power as an alternative energy source. However, they oppose the proposed Cape Wind plant in Nantucket Sound due to potential adverse economic, environmental and public safety impacts (Alliance).

Economic Issues

According to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) the ratepayers of the cape would only experience a 1-2% increase in their electricity rates. But the people of Save our Sound just aren’t buying that. Despite years of opposition from Save our Sound, the state regulators have approved a power purchase agreement between National Grid and Cape Wind at a starting price of 18.7 cents/kWh, beginning in 2013 (Wood). That is a little more than double the current average rate per kWh in Massachusetts which is 8.1 cents. Furthermore, the deal struck between the National Grid and Cape Wind is contingent on a 3.5% annual increase for the next 15 years. This would place the cost nearly 235% over current market cost of electricity (Alliance). The people in the New England area are fearful of what this may mean not only to their own pocket book but also the businesses and industry in the area as well.

So why is it the cost so high when the average retail price for electricity in the United States in 2010 was a whopping 9.88 cents per kWh (Factors..) as shown in the featured image2. The initial cost of such a project as Cape Wind is especially high. The offshore construction of the 130 turbines standing at 440 feet tall is not an easy task.

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The initial estimates of construction bottomed out at $700,000. However, more recent estimates total over 1 billion dollars and is expected to keep rising with the escalating costs of offshore wind farm. Also, the technology and parts for the 130 turbines are quite expensive and must be maintained all giving reason to the high cost: 18.7 cents per kWh.

Ann Berwick a chair of the DPU states, "It is abundantly clear that the Cape Wind facility offers significant benefits that are not currently available from any other renewable resource, and that these benefits outweigh the costs of the project."(Wood) The people of Nantucket are not convinced. The Save our Sound website features an online poll conducted by Bernett Research asking the people of Nantucket a series of questions. When asked if they would support or oppose Cape Wind after learning of 10.6 cent per kWh increase in rate, 59% of the people opposed the project. When told of how it may affect not only their own homes but their place of employment and businesses at which they shop all costing them more: 66% of the people opposed the project (Alliance).

Technological Issues

Our domestic power grid is a huge array of interconnected power stations, transformers, and millions of miles of power lines. Essentially, the power grid works as a giant circuit. Like any circuit, there are many factors that affect its performance. An issue that arises with wind power and other green energy sources is the consistency of power output. Too little power on calm days may not be able to meet the demand for energy. Too much power would pump exorbitant amounts of electricity into the grid, causing surges throughout the grid. Major fail safes would need to be added to the grid as a whole to ensure consistency throughout the power grid in the Cape Cod and Massachusetts area.

A similar problem is mounting in the state of Oregon. Wind energy outputs in the Northwest are expected to almost double by 2025. Law makers and utility companies all foresee major issues related to the increase in overall electricity in the grid, as well as an increase in variability that comes with wind power (Sickinger). Relating these same issues back to the prospective Cape Wind project would predict a similar outcome. Because the Cape Wind project is expected to replace up to 75% of Cape Cod’s energy demand, that percentage would be based on variability of wind sources. At the present, consistent and relatively cheap energy is being supplied to the power grid from fossil fuel burning. By replacing this percentage with a variable energy source, energy rates for Cape Cod and its citizens could become volatile. Changes in offshore wind conditions would not only affect the output of electricity, but also change the economics of the source. Lower wind speeds would decrease the output of energy, decreasing the supply and jacking the price. All in all, the major concern is the variability of wind power. Ken Dragoon, a resource analyst for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council described the inconsistency of wind power best by saying “the wind is a new thing with new properties and institutionally we haven’t caught up with it yet” (Sickinger).

Aesthetic Dispositions

A large part of the opposition’s displeasure with Cape Wind involves the view of the wind turbines. Most citizens and tourists would rather not have to look out over Nantucket Sound and see huge, dominating wind turbines over the pristine ocean horizon3.

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To most citizens, this would be an unpleasant sight that would take adjustments. Due to Cape Cod’s major tourism industry, there is a sentiment amongst many business owners that the project will lose tourist interest due to the unpleasing site of large wind turbines. For others, the issue is more spiritual as well.

The Wampanoag Tribe of Martha's Vineyard, also called the Aquinnah, have considered Horseshoe shoal to be a sacred area for centuries before the arrival of Europeans. Not only would the construction of the turbines be built on holy ground, but the wind farm would obstruct the view of the sunrise over the horizon. A press release was issued by Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Aquinnah Tribe, regarding the discontent with the proposition of the wind farm being built on Indian sacred ground. To add to the controversy, 14 legal inconsistencies were found in the proposal regarding the site, including violations of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act as well as Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (Andrews-Maltais).

Alternatives

Most citizens would agree that the Cape Wind project is a good idea, merely in the wrong place. Save our Sound proposes different locations that may be more beneficial without sacrificing the integrity of the Nantucket Sound and Horseshoe Shoal. Deep water wind is being considered as a better alternative to shallow water wind projects. Energy Technologies Inc., a UK based energy company is working to develop deep water wind farms off the western coast of the British Island. They have been working on developing floating wind turbines, as well as exploring the depths at which the turbine towers can be constructed. Wind turbines can be effectively constructed in depths of up to 100 meters (Alliance) while floating turbines may be affective in waters from 70 to 300 meters in depth (Energy). Deep water wind projects in the UK offer promising futures for wind power. At greater distances from shore, wind speeds are more consistent. Although many people would cite the cost of constructing turbines at larger depths, the benefits of deep water wind could still be more economic endeavor. The increase in consistency would lead to a smaller demand to manage the variability of electricity output, which may counter-balance the economic implications (Energy).

Conclusion

Despite the various setbacks as discussed in the previous section, integration of wind power into national power grids has seen a steady increase. As it stands today, many nations are making an effort to increase their wind power generation capacities, while others already harness the power of wind as a major source of their power national power supply. For example, in the year 2010, Denmark produced 3,752 MW of electricity from wind power, contributing to 21.9% of their total electricity supply (Unlisted 2010). Unfortunately, this is the highest percentage electricity share found anywhere else in the world. From a raw, power-generated perspective, the US is the world leader in wind-sourced production, but it only accounts for 0.8% of it’s national power usage. Despite these disappointing statistics, the US has spent $17 billion on wind power alone in 2008. If this kind of spending is to continue, the US is expected to generate 20% of it’s national electricity through wind-power alone. This is a trend that has occurred in many nations around the globe.

Moving forward, there are a few notable countries that will be making even a greater effort to support this renewable energy source: USA, UK, and China, closely followed by Germany, Spain and Denmark (Johnson 2009). These countries are at the forefront not only because they realize the need for renewable energy, but also because their land features admirable conditions on which wind farms can be placed. As mentioned in earlier sections, wind power’s effectiveness is highly based on the location of the wind farm in question, in particular land-based wind.

In the case of the Cape Wind project its threats outweigh its benefits. Erecting 130 wind turbines covering 25 square miles are not beneficial for an area known for its natural beauty (Alliance). Polls have been conducted showing that the majority of the citizens do not want this project to go through (Alliance). The threats to the environment such as possible oil spill from transformer oil, threats to endangered species do not make this project worthwhile in this area. The economic benefit of this project as it seems is not advantageous as well. The offshore wind plant would produce electricity at two or three times more than the prices in the area (Alliance).

As we continue sourcing our power from non-renewable and environmentally hazardous sources such as plutonium, coal, and natural gas, these materials will become more and more scarce, increasing the price-premium of using these sources as generators of electricity. This necessitates the need for sustainable, alternative forms of energy. Nations have seen the need for this, and as a result have been budgeting to implement more wind farms in opportune places. Land-based wind farms are much cheaper and less risky than offshore wind farms and therefore are a better option. Another option would be to go further out in the ocean in deep waters where the wind is more steady and stronger therefore allowing the turbines to capture more energy consistently. This in turn drives the cost down (Alliance). Another option to look at is solar energy. Placing a solar plant in the desert where it is uninhabited for the most part is another great renewable energy source to consider. Its effect on the environment is very minimal. For example Desertec Foundation is proposing to erect 100GW of concentrating solar power plants in the Saharan desert. It says that if 0.3% of the Saharan desert was used for concentrating solar power plants, it would produce enough clean energy to power all of Europe (Inhabitat).

Overall, the outlook for the future of wind power is an optimistic one. As seen earlier, many countries are making an effort to diversify their power sources, and wind is at the forefront of their thoughts. It is to be expected to see many countries turning to wind power as a major supplemental force in the world of tomorrow.

Works Cited

Andrews-Maltais, Cheryl. “Press Release”. The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Anquinnah). 26 April 2010. Web. 12 Aug. 2011.

Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. Save Our Sound. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <http://www.saveour sound.org/content_item/aboutus.html>.

"Energy Resources: Wind Power." Andy Darvill's Science Site: Home. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <http://www.darvill.clara.net/altenerg/wind.htm>.

“Environmental Assessment”. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. 18 April 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2011.

“ETI project identifies potential for floating offshore wind turbines in deeper water.” Energy Technologies Inc. 10 Nov. 2010. Web. 12 Aug. 2011.

"Factors Affecting Electricity Prices - Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy."Energy Information Administration. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_factors_ affecting_prices>

"Is Wind Power Efficient Enough? - Interesting Energy Facts." Energy Sources, Renewable and Non-renewable Energy - Interesting Energy Facts. 5 Sept. 2010. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <http:// interestingenergyfacts.blogspot.com/2010/09/is-wind-power-efficient-enough.html>.

Kempton, Willet, Felipe M. Pimenta, and Dana E. Veron. "Electric Power from Offshore Wind via Synoptic-scale Interconnection." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 23 Feb. 2010. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <http://www.pnas.org/content/107/16/7240.abstract?sid=8737d97f-3437-4007-981a-507e09e5ccd4>.

McElroy, Michael B. "Global Potential for Wind-generated Electricity." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Web. 10 Aug. 2011. <http://www.pnas.org/content/106/27/10933. full?sid=b96bd2fc-ac5c-4c7c-9ff8-afcb639623c9>.

“Project at a glance.” Cape Wind. 2011. Cape Wind Associates, LLC. Web. 10 Aug. 2011.

Pryor, S. C., and R. J. Barthelmie. "Assessing Climate Change Impacts on the Near-term Stability of the Wind Energy Resource over the United States." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <http://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8167.abstract?sid =8737d97f-3437-4007-981a-507e09e5ccd4y>.

Rodgers K., Mark. Personal Interview. Phone Call. 11 Aug.2011.

Sickinger, Ted. “Northwest wind power to double but inconsistency creates grid nightmare.” The Oregonian. 5 May 2011. Oregon Live. Web. 12 Aug. 2011.

"Wind and Water Power Program: How Does a Wind Turbine Work?" EERE: EERE Server Maintenance. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/wind_animation.html>.

Wood, Lisa. "Massachusetts Regulators Approve Cape Wind PPA at 18.7 Cents/kWh - Electric Power | Platts News Article & Story." Energy Products & Services, Oil, Coal Insight, Natural Gas Shipping, Electric Power Methodology Analysis, Metals, Petrochemical, Reference - Platts. 22 Nov. 2010. Web. 12 Aug. 2011.

"International Energy Outlook 2006." U.S. Energy Information Administration. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2011. <www.eia.gov/oiaf/archive/ieo06/special_topics.html>.
Unlisted. "Denmark's Power Supply." Denmark Board of Power. 09 Oct. 2010. Web. 1 July 2011. <http://www.ens.dk/da-DK/Info/TalOgKort/Statistik_og_noegletal/Maanedsstatistik/Documents/El-maanedsstatistik.xls

"RENEWABLE ENERGY Wind Power’s Contribution to Electric Power Generation and Impact on Farms and Rural Communities." United States Government Accountability Office. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 June 2011. <www.gao.gov/new.items/d04756.pdf>.

"RenewableUK - Frequently Asked Questions." RenewableUK - The UK's leading renewable energy association - (formerly named BWEA). N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July 2011. <http://www.bwea.com/ref/faq.html#big>.


Sam Castonguay

Although offshore wind farms may present themselves as an eyesore, they are a valuable source of energy. Solar energy makes a rooftop unattractive but that is a sacrifice that is necessary to make in order to use alternative sources of energy. Offshore wind farms take up no land and they look to be a promising eventual replacement to offshore oil drilling, which isn't a endless resource like wind and it has the potential to be very environmentally damaging.

England recently opened the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm in June of last year that takes up 13.5 square miles of coast. When it open it was the largest offshore wind farm and powers 240,000 British households. Like all technology, it is an expensive because its new but if the US continues to invest in it, it could be a crucial source of energy in the future.


Edwin Torres

I found your article very interesting because our team was focused on the bill that was passed earlier this month to move towards integrating all American power grids. Wind energy is viable but I definitely agree with one of your comments regarding the project. It is definitely a great idea but it is for the wrong place and probably not the best decision. I would like to point out though that America is looking to connect all its grids so that places that provide an excess of power can then be forwarded toward other areas. In this modern age its definitely important to move away from energy that comes from non-renewable sources, but nothing comes without a price right?


James Mangrum

I noticed you only wrote about one alternative to the wind turbine. Another solution would be to use a hydro turbine. This would submerge the turbines under water and out of sight, therefore preserving the view of the sunrise and sunset. With hydro turbines there is always a steady current of water flowing through the turbines. Whereas wind turbines do not have the luxury of a constant moving force to propel the rotor attached to the turbine. Also hydro turbines have a higher energy efficiency of about 90% (WVIC), which makes it 50% more efficient than wind energy. Therefore this alternative energy source would have been a plausible alternative to add in your proposal. I enjoyed reading your article and found a few grammatical errors, but the format and structure of it was great. Well done.

Works Cited
Facts about Hydropower. Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company. August 13, 2011.
http://new.wvic.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7&Itemid=44.


Alex Zammit

I thought the article was very interesting and covered a topic I knew very little about. Despite my lack of previous knowledge on wind turbines, I found the article easy enough to read and plenty informative. Also, I'm very much in support of alternate forms of energy and think using wind is a great idea; however, in this case I do agree that this particular location seems to present more negatives than positives. I especially liked the picture of the coast with the wind turbines, because it gave me a clear idea of the damage it does to the great view in such a beautiful area. Seeing as I didn't find any places to make corrections, I think you all had a great and informative article. I definitely will be more interested in reading the next time I see an article mention wind turbines.


Dan Goff

This article is incredibly relevant, especially as Boards of Supervisors consider possible wind farm plans in both Roanoke (Poor Mountain) and Floyd Counties locally, and aesthetics is an argument often mentioned by opponents. I spent ten days on the Plains earlier this summer storm chasing, and out there, it quickly becomes clear how imposing these behemoths are on the skyline. For perspective on how they modify the skyline of mountainous terrain, take an opportunity to drive through the area around Canaan Valley, WV, where almost all of the ridgetops have at least one.

One item you don't address in the article at all, save for the conclusion, is the bit about transformer oil spills. I'd really like to see more about this, because it's not something that I've heard come up before in discussions about the risks of wind turbines. In theory this should be a risk for land-based turbines as well; has it been addressed anywhere?


Ruiyan Jin
Good and interesting article. I also strongly agree with your conclusion: wind power is a good alternative power source but it need to be constructed in right place. However, I do not think building near the coastal will make the wind farms a serious eyesore. I have visited the wind farms in Japan. They have been accomplished for a few years and it never becomes obstruction for local sight. Actually, they make the coast more beautiful. The color of Japan’s wind turbines is white and it is very compatible with blue see and blue sky. When you see them, you will have a divine feeling. In sum, I think the wind turbines will not destroy the tourism industry in Cape Cod.
Moreover, I strongly support wind power. Because it is the most clean and cheap alternative power resource until right now. In your article, you talk much about the economic disadvantage of wind power, but I think you’d better compare it with other new power, like nuclear, solar. My opinion is if you decide to abandon traditional fossil energy, you need to pay some think. There is no absolutely perfect energy source in the world.


Patrick Black

Dan in response to your question about oil spillage refer to the final paragraph under "The Cape Wind Controversy" subsection.

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