Cape Cod Times – Editorial: “All about location”
December 6, 2017 –
Our first editorial opposing Cape Wind’s original plan to build 170 wind turbines in the middle of Nantucket Sound was published on Jan. 20, 2002. Here is what we said then:
“Wind power holds a romantic appeal for many of us. Producing energy in a way that doesn’t harm our Earth seems so right. But that doesn’t mean we should blindly follow the first proposal that comes along. This plan to build one of the largest wind farms in the world in Nantucket Sound — between Craigville Beach and Martha’s Vineyard — is ill conceived primarily because it is poorly sited.”
After more than 15 years of endless debate, tens of millions of dollars spent, political intrigue from Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill, including the strange political bedfellows of Kennedy and Koch, Cape Wind announced Friday that it has pulled the plug on its wind farm.
Some say the project, first proposed in 2001 and reviewed by dozens of local, state and federal agencies, succumbed to financial constraints. After all, the project was dealt a major setback in January 2015, when Eversource and National Grid ended the contracts to buy power from the turbines.
But don’t let anyone fool you about the real reason the project died. It was all about location.
Cape Wind was the wrong project in the wrong place. That a private developer was allowed to stake a claim on a public resource like Nantucket Sound spoke volumes about our government’s inability at the time to protect national treasures. As a result, we long advocated an all-inclusive zoning process that leads to a comprehensive ocean management plan, which identifies appropriate and inappropriate places to build any commercial structure off our coast.
“State and federal governments should immediately zone coastal and ocean tracts for the offshore wind industry,” we wrote in 2003. “Just as a power plant would be inappropriate on the Cape Cod National Seashore, a wind farm is inappropriate on Nantucket Sound.”
It took nearly seven years, but the federal government finally implemented such a comprehensive ocean management plan. “The framework is intended to guide our ocean plans and allow for a bottom-up approach,” said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality at the time.
Bottom-up were the key words. In the Cape Wind fiasco, locals had no control over the siting of the industrial plant. Unfortunately, the federal plan came too late for Cape Cod as such projects as Cape Wind were grandfathered. Nevertheless, the plan lays out a vision and recommends the adoption of a national policy that highlights the need to protect, maintain and restore ocean, coasts and Great Lakes ecosystems — something this country has never had.
With a footprint larger than Manhattan, with turbines each the size of the Statue of Liberty, this industrial project unnecessarily divided our community. We wished the developer had chosen to work with local and regional stakeholders from the outset, but he had done nothing illegal. James Gordon, president of Cape Wind and its parent company, Energy Management Inc., followed the laborious process of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. It was the flawed process presented to him, and Gordon simply followed it.
To his credit, Gordon is a pioneer in the renewable energy industry. As he said on Friday in a statement: “During Cape Wind’s development period we successfully developed over a billion dollars of renewable solar and biomass energy projects and, although we were unable to bring Cape Wind to fruition, we are proud of the catalyzing and pioneering effort we devoted to bringing offshore wind to the United States. Our successful resolution of the multiple appeals established important legal precedents that will hopefully make it easier for other offshore wind developers that follow.”
Indeed, lessons learned from Cape Wind were applied to the nation’s first offshore wind farm off Block Island in Rhode Island. And three large companies have signed lease agreements for 190,000-acre parcels in federal waters 15 to 25 miles south of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard — far from the sight of Cape Cod.
It’s been a long 16 years for Cape Wind, and now it’s over. Gordon was a formidable foe, and we wish him only the best.