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Cape Cod: Twisting in the Wind?

Wind developers face a backlash from citizens.
Fortnightly Magazine - May 15 2002
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"I think it's entirely legitimate to ask people if we don't go this way, what do you propose to meet the 40 percent load growth over the next 20 years? An important part of this debate," says Duffy, "is that New England has had almost all of its new capacity in the last generation has been natural gas. ... Now, parties, including ISO New England, are raising concerns from both the reliability and price volatility sides that we are approaching the point where we have an over-dependency on one fuel-natural gas. ... And once you reach that point where you can no longer say we'll just keep building gas combined cycle units, then what is your answer? It really changes the debate. In the last 15 years, that has been the consistent answer. But, if we can't keep doing that for the another 20 years, as the ISO suggests, where do we go? If you look at what is commercially viable, I think the answer is wind. Not the exclusive solution, but part of the mix."

Another argument Cape Wind Associates makes for the project is that a wind farm of this size will certainly make a difference in the cost of power in New England. According to Duffy, "We're a unit that will have zero variable costs. We will be dispatched to the extent that we will be able to produce power. Basically, we'll be on all the time. ... Our power will be displacing whatever the marginal unit otherwise would have been in an economic dispatch scenario. We get two benefits from that. Number one is energy clearing price (ECP) suppression. In the New England market, whatever the marginal unit was, the last unit dispatched sets the clearing price for the whole pool. When we run, the unit that would have otherwise been the marginal unit is going to be displaced from the dispatch. Without us, if you had a unit on a given day at a $100 bid price as the marginal unit, once you introduce 400 MW of wind [energy] at the bottom of the bid stack because of our zero marginal cost, the ECP of the whole pool may drop to $75. So, it's safe to say that one of the public benefits we bring is a suppression on ECPs."

NIMBY, NIMBY, and NIMBY: A Familiar Cry

One of the major complaints from the residents of Cape Cod is that the wind farm is going to reduce the aesthetic value of the Cape to the tourists-which is the lifeblood of the economy there. People don't like the choice of Horseshoe Shoal for the project. They object to being able to see them from the beaches, to the navigational lights that will be positioned on the towers, and to what some people fear will be a lot of additional noise from the huge blades spinning in the wind. The complaints are very similar to those heard from opponents of nuclear power plant projects over the years. ()

"I would be willing to bet that almost