Wind is capable of awesome feats of re-engineering, like bringing down tree limbs and power lines and piling up massive snowdrifts. It’s also capable of powering wind turbines to produce electricity. But it seems increasingly unlikely that Mother Nature will be cutting New Englanders’ electricity bills via Nantucket Sound anytime soon.
After a decade of planning, permitting, public hearings, and plenty of palaver, pro and con, the Cape Wind project remains stuck in the doldrums. And all the financial signs are suggesting that, while proponents may huff and puff a while longer, they won’t be knocking anyone’s rates down, for the very simple reason that Cape Wind may never be built.
Cape Wind’s developer, we learned over the weekend, has canceled contracts to buy land and facilities onshore. ISO New England has suspended Cape Wind from participation in its wholesale electricity market. And National Grid and Northeast Utilities canceled their contracts with Cape Wind more than two weeks ago.
Some may read all that as a mere lull in the development process. We think it signals quite clearly that all the wind has gone out of Cape Wind’s sails.
Wind power is not dependent on any one developer or project, of course, and remains a viable and growing option within the renewable energy sector.
But it’s important to keep matters in perspective. The U.S. is the world’s leader in total wind-power energy production, but wind still contributes only a small portion of the nation’s electricity.
In 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, all forms of renewable energy accounted for just 9 percent of the nation’s primary energy consumption, and wind power claimed just 13 percent of that – or a little more than 1 percent of all primary energy consumption.
Wind power has a future, but it’s not about to supplant oil, gas, coal and nuclear anytime soon. And Cape Wind, plagued with problems, now seems unlikely to play any role whatsoever in meeting New England’s electricity needs.
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