By Bill Fonda/ email@example.com
Wind energy roundtable tackles safety issues, fishing, electric rates
Coverage of The Cape Codder’s Wind Energy Roundtable kicks off a series of articles and analyses of the proposed Cape Wind project that will appear in the paper through Sept. 1.
Cape Wind’s Jim Gordon, the would-be developer of a controversial wind farm in Nantucket Sound, conceded Monday that if a federal agency declines to issue a permit due to some “fatal flaw” in Cape Wind’s planning, the farm would have to be scrapped.
Navigational and other public safety issues surrounding the 130-turbine wind farm, slated for Horseshoe Shoal, were among topics put on the table during a meeting between Gordon, president of Cape Wind, and the man who represents the leading opposition to the wind farm, Charles Vinick, president and chief executive of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
In a lively and sometimes contentious roundtable session sponsored by The Cape Codder, Gordon said he remains confident that the benefits of his proposed wind farm ultimately would be found to outweigh any perceived detriments.
“I believe it is going to pass muster,” he said, referring to reviews that are under way or will get under way soon, including those by the Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration and more than a dozen other agencies, seven of which must issue permits.
The hour-long discussion was moderated by the newspaper’s editor in chief Mark Skala and was taped at the Lower Cape TV studios in Orleans (see box for broadcast dates and times). Questions posed to Gordon and Vinick came from readers and from the newspaper’s editorial board.
Back-and-forth exchanges over each question quickly illustrated the wide gap between the two articulate and spirited participants, with the discussion turning personal when Vinick angrily protested Gordon’s repeatedly referring to him as “Chuck.”
A question asking whether energy from Cape Wind would directly benefit Cape Cod residents, and if so, by how much, drew a not-so-specific answer from Gordon.
“How much is the guarantee?” Vinick asked.
Gordon said he did not know what the guarantee would be because of fees that would have to be paid to the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency in charge of reviewing the project, and what energy costs will be.
“Just in the past few years, the price of energy on the Cape and Islands has doubled,” Gordon said.
Wholesale prices might fall $25 million, Vinick replied, but he said the ratepayers of Massachusetts will have to pay twice that for the tax credits needed to finance the project.
Vinick said the Alliance is just part of a broad-based opposition, not to wind energy, but to Cape Wind’s proposed site on Horseshoe Shoal for environmental, economic and safety reasons.
Instead, he recommended a combination of land-based sites in New England and other offshore sites, particularly since Cape Wind would not come online until 2009 or 2010.
“This month in Scotland, there’s a demonstration of a deepwater site,” he said. “While it may not be 2009 or 2010, could it be (20)12?”
Gordon asked why, if the Alliance says it supports renewable energy, does it only criticize the Cape Wind proposal. He said the company reviewed 17 alternate sites, and that the projects on Horseshoe Shoal and off the coast of Long Island have to be done before moving into deeper water.
In Great Britain, Gordon said a report about the first year of two wind farms indicated that both are operating better than expected, with no impact on sea life or birds. Both wind farms, he said, are now viewed more favorably.
“We need bold and innovative solutions to the problems we’re facing,” he said.
Regarding navigation, Vinick said the wind turbines would interfere with radar signals and prevent boats from knowing what other vessels might be in the vicinity, and those are the boats that have radar.
“There isn’t a (solution) today,” he said.
Vinick also cited a report written by Madeleine Hall-Arber and Rhonda Ryznar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David Bergeron of the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership stating that fishermen who traditionally fish the Sound estimate 50 percent to 60 percent of their annual income is from the Horseshoe Shoal area.
“It’s not too shallow to fish out there,” said Vinick.
Gordon, however, said it is impossible that 50 percent of the value in a 570-square-mile area could come from one sandy shoal. He added that the wind farm would not be in the main boat routes or flight lanes, and noted that the project has passed every review so far.
“Is it possible that you are engaging in a little bit of fear-mongering here?” he asked Vinick.
Due to time constraints, the final question was about the role of wealthy waterfront owners in opposition to Cape Wind and the influence they have with regard to the Alliance’s operations. Vinick said ocean zoning should take views into account, and that people who own property on the coast are going to be concerned.
“It’s part of the culture of what is the Cape and Islands,” he said. “These are people who are closest to it. Of course they’re concerned.”
The Alliance is a nonprofit group, and of its board, Vinick said a third are major donors, a third are minor donors and a third do not donate.
With only an hour scheduled, Skala could not get to all of the questions on the list, and said the parties could perhaps talk more some other time.
“Clearly, the issues are going to continue,” he noted.
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