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Cape Cod: Twisting in the Wind?

Wind developers face a backlash from citizens.
Fortnightly Magazine - May 15 2002

about the birds in the area before any major construction begins. "Beginning in May, we'll actually have a lift vessel out there to study the spring [bird] migration, and to that end, we'll have a very powerful radar that will be manned 100 percent of the time that will cover this area very thoroughly for the month of May," says Olmsted. "We're doing flyovers on a regular basis to tracking species and [the] activities of the birds.

"We absolutely believe that when the debate is really focused, the environmental community will be solidly on our side."

Do They Have to Be So Big?

One has to wonder if these turbines really have to stand 400-plus feet in the air? Couldn't the same impact be made on the energy situation in New England with turbines that were much smaller? Olmsted says no. "It's a matter of economy of scale. To get the effect we need and wanted, we looked at what was the most economic wind turbine to use. To get 420 MW delivered, do the math. Those have to be 1.5 MW turbines," he says.

Duffy agrees. "I wouldn't speak to anyone's motives. A lot of concern has been raised over depictions, such as the visual implications, that are not documented. If someone has a direct criticism about our methodology, then let's talk about it. But in any event, once the environmental study we've commissioned is released later this year, at least we won't be arguing over the methodology any longer," he says.

Another reason to make the wind park as large as it's proposed is due to immense start-up costs. "The biggest single cost in the development, or the construction, is the infrastructure to get the first megawatt to the substation in Barnstable. It's an immense cost. A platform has to be constructed, we have to get the electric gear out there, then install the cable underneath the Sound, do the shore work, and then the cabling back to the Yarmouth riser, and then cable back to Barnstable. That's the answer to 'Why so big?' in a nutshell," Olmsted says.

Change Isn't Easy

One might think that Nantucket and Cape Cod being Nantucket and Cape Cod, the opposition is purely of an inherent nature. Olmsted doesn't think so. "I recently did a presentation to the Nantucket Rotary. Afterwards, a fellow took me aside and asked about the opposition. He was an older gentleman. We talked a little bit about it, and he said, 'You know what the real problem is here?' He was talking about Nantucket specifically. 'It's change. It's different from what they have. I don't care if you tell these people it's for the better or for the worse, if it's different, they're going to be opposed.' I can accept that. And I understand that. People are generally resistant to change everywhere. And this project is a very simple place to focus that resistance. We have to find a way to deal with that," he said.

The Wind at His Back
Interview with Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind