It is often said that hindsight is 20/20, but recently the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates demonstrated that foresight also can be used wisely to assess the still-evolving controversy over wind turbines for Cape Cod.
The delegates rejected a proposal that would have set standards for land-based turbines under the Cape Cod Commission’s Regional Policy Plan. The proposed standards for local wind-energy projects and regulations governing them, they determined, are too lenient.
If the commission decides to create a wind-energy district, thereby triggering a yearlong moratorium on new projects, its action might slow large-scale wind energy development here until there is a comprehensive understanding of the impact of turbines on such issues as quality of life, ramifications for real estate values and potential consequences from noise, flicker and equipment failures.
But until the district is created, developers eager to get started might move even faster to get projects under way.
For many, wind energy here translates into the long, continuing battle over a 130-turbine wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound. But more turbines are planned on land and potentially for additional offshore sites. And for Cape Codders who are not yet aware of this – or of the ramifications for families, homeowners and communities – the assembly’s action is a welcome second chance to get up to speed and have a voice in whether turbines will continue to sprout up all over the Cape.
Like 300 to 600 feet from your backyard.
Or in parts of Cape Cod Bay.
Or near your favorite marsh.
It is a sentimentally appealing idea, this notion of erecting “windmills” and converting to green living, but even after 10 years of haggling, the people of Cape Cod still do not have – or are not aware of – the detailed vision of how their land- and seascape will be altered. The proposed turbines for Nantucket Sound constitute “wind factories,” a gigantic industrial development in the waters between mainland Cape Cod and the Islands.
Is this the character of the region Cape Codders really want? And are they ready to embrace turbines, with all their accompanying noise, light flicker and visual blight?
The assembly was not at all sure in the case of land-based turbines. And so, wisely, they voted to slow the process and redirect the stampede toward turning Cape Cod into a wind-factory industrial park.
In contrast, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has vowed to speed up the permitting process, allowing leases in federal waters within two years rather than the previous seven or more. Officials along the Atlantic Coast, he says, will work together to protect local culture and beauty while expanding the nation’s supply of renewable energy.
Reassuring words and lofty ideals. But talk to the Falmouth residents who are being tormented by the noise and distraction that turbines – and relatively small ones at that – create near their homes. Ask them what, and who, they believe.
Drive past squat, stilled turbines located near the Cape Cod Mall and just off Route 28 in Marstons Mills, and imagine wind machines many times taller than these – operating or not, intentionally or not – and ask yourself: Do these promote our history and culture, protect the beauty of this place, preserve our fragile ecosystems and secure a better life for our residents?
The assembly of delegates seems to think we ought to make sure we know – and want – what we’re buying into. We agree. Everyone wants less reliance on oil, and certainly less offshore drilling – neither of which is assured by continuing to desecrate the remaining coastline.
Let’s slow down and consider the consequences of these vast formulations of our future.
The vision demonstrated by the assembly of delegates well might lead to more responsible decision-making before more than a score of land-based turbines are driven into the heart of the Cape. Let’s open our eyes and really take a hard look, at reality, before it’s too late to have a say in who will own and shape our future.
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