Offshore windpower: They'll come to love it

Excerpted from the Sept. 1 "Digital Diary'' column in GoLocal24.

It’s too bad that it has taken so long, but the completion of Deepwater Wind’s five-turbine wind farm off Block Island, R.I., is very good news for New England.

The facility, expected to start producing electricity inNovember, will mean that a little more of New England’s electricity will come from the region’s own sources andthat we might be able to use a little less natural gas from fracking.  That process, contrary to the corporate publicity and wishful thinking, does not slow global warming because the process releases so much methane from the fracking sites.  And the Block Island project will help reduce air pollution:  The island’s electricity has been produced by unavoidably dirty diesel fuel.

Further, success in getting this project up will boost, by example, much bigger offshore windpower projects planned for  nearby waters,  most notably between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard. Eventually, this should dramatically improve the reliability of our electricity and in the long run cut its cost as windpower technology improves.

As usual with such projects in places like Block Island, Deepwater Wind had to fend off some affluent summer people who were offended that they’d have to look at wind turbines (which many folks think are beautiful) on their horizon.  Most famously, a group of very few rich people in Osterville, Mass., led by Bill Koch (of the Koch Brothers) have managed to block the big Cape Wind project, which was to go up in middle of Nantucket Sound,  although the project has been supported by a large majority of theMassachusetts public. Yet again,  a few privileged NIMBYs have sabotaged the public interest. (I co-wrote (with Wendy Williams) a bookabout that controversy, called Cape Wind, later made into a movie called Cape Spin.)

The Obama administration and some states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts have, to their credit, enacted laws and regulations to encourage offshore wind. This is especially attractive in the Northeast, with its reliable breezes and shallow water extending a lot further offshore than you see off the West Coast.

The Europeans have long embraced offshore windpower, for environmental reasons and to reduce reliance on fossil-fuel imports, especially from an increasingly aggressive Russia.

I predict that many current offshore-windpower foes will come to tolerate and even like the turbines’  curious beauty. And the fishermen will  come to love them because fish congregate in the supports of such structures.

--  Robert Whitcomb