This letter was written to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service.
I am writing in opposition to the proposed Cape Wind project.
It is environmentally costly:
Thousands of tons of heavy equipment being moved into the delicate environment of the Nantucket Sound with huge potential for accidents and pollution, changing tidal flows and chasing out the local fishermen.
No comprehensive study has been done to weigh the amount of fossil fuel (the embedded energy) used in the manufacture, installation and maintenance of the windmills telling us when and if there will be an energy gain they propose to provide over their lifetime.
There are important questions that should be answered about the decommissioning process to ensure that Nantucket Sound does not end up as a junkyard.
It is politically costly:
Estimated financial support from taxpayers is around $1.3 billion over the life of the project. Taxpayers are giving up 25 square miles of public property to a private, profit-making company with nothing in return.
One billion could make a huge contribution toward supporting individual families to provide solar hot water or lower impact energy savers, which would be a much less environmentally costly and dependable way to reduce our carbon footprint.
This environmentally questionable wind farm does not address the need to reduce our usage of fossil fuels. In fact, it probably adds to our carbon footprint by its assumption that we need ever more sources of power.
In 1960s, where I live on MV, I built a windmill for my farm animals – ducks, geese and chickens. It made two small ponds and a stream and on a good day pumped 20,000 gallons of water. It lasted for six or so years, and went through many hurricane force winds, but the worst weather was an ice storm that threw the windmill off balance.
In comparison, 33 years ago, I installed three solar collectors on my roof. They are still working today and have outlasted the roof shingles. Over those 33 years, they have cut my power consumption for hot water over 75 percent. This is extremely simple technology. It would have taken a lot of fossil fuels to produce that much hot water. I estimate my three solar collectors produce about two megawatt hours of electricity per year and their area is equal to three sheets of plywood on my roof.
So far as I can tell, the only green thing about the proposed wind farm is the color of the huge amount of taxpayer dollars being invested into it. As might be expected, Cape Wind is promulgating a massive propaganda and disinformation campaign: a test tower in Nantucket Sound was put up to get local information about the wind, but it appears that test information was taken from the wind conditions in the North Sea. Mark Rogers stated that the 1938 hurricane, which is the standard for damaging winds, had been downgraded to a Category 3 to reassure us that building the windmills to withstand a Category 4 hurricane – in the face of climate change which is creating more Category 5 hurricanes – would be adequate.
Let’s look at the real costs of this proposed wind farm. There will be at least 100,000 tons of metal in the whole wind farm. Add to that, transportation, construction and maintenance, large boats with potential for oil leaks, etc., not to mention environmental impacts we won’t know until it’s too late. How many years will it take for those windmills to pay for the fossil fuel it took to create them so we actually get a positive energy flow from them? And what’s the best-case scenario for how long they’ll last compared to how much they’ll cost in fossil fuel?
This private, profit-making company is setting public policy, rather than the other way around. If the decision on the Cape Wind project is about the common good and reducing our carbon footprint, it seems that over a Billion dollars in subsidies taken from U.S. taxpayers arid given to a private corporation to develop wind power on 25 square miles of public territory is not a good deal for the people who are paying for it and very questionable resource savings. If as public policy we were to dedicate a billion dollars to reducing our carbon footprint, it is most unlikely we would choose to do it this way. We could subsidize the people who are paying to encourage development of renewable resources and help the whole country be invested in the process. If we want to reduce our carbon footprint, let’s give big tax incentives to people to install solar hot water heaters or some other efficient forms of renewable energy that will clearly lessen our carbon footprint. If we invested $80,000,000 per year (the amount of the tax subsidy to Cape Wind) we could give $1,000 in subsidies to 80,000 families to promote use of energy-saving technologies. It probably takes only one or two years to pay back the environment for the manufacture of a solar hot water heater (for the glass, copper, aluminum etc.). How long will it take us to pay back the fossil fuel debt for the existence of those windmills?
In summary, the Cape Wind project proposes to use public territory and public money for a questionable private venture, which may or may not produce electricity at a huge cost to the environment and to the people. If we were considering subsidizing the reduction of our carbon footprint to the tune of over one billion dollars, would we ever choose such an environmentally costly private venture? Not likely. We would choose to subsidize we the people, to solve the problem more quickly and at much less environmental expense.
Kenneth Malcolm Jones
24 April 2008
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