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Earth Power United States Politics

Government Approves First US Offshore Wind Farm 432

Posted by samzenpus
from the blow-baby-blow dept.
RobotRunAmok writes "In a groundbreaking decision that some say will usher in a new era of clean energy, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today he was approving the nation's first offshore wind farm, the controversial Cape Wind project off of Cape Cod. The project has undergone years of environmental review and political maneuvering, including opposition from the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, whose home overlooks Nantucket Sound, and from Wampanoag Indian tribes who complained that the 130 turbines, which would stand more than 400 feet above the ocean surface, would disturb spiritual sun greetings and possibly ancestral artifacts and burial grounds on the seabed. But George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, hailed the decision, saying it was 'a critical step toward ending our reliance on foreign oil and achieving energy independence.'"
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Government Approves First US Offshore Wind Farm

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  • Flashback! (Score:2, Informative)

    'a critical step toward ending our reliance on foreign oil and achieving energy independence.'" I thought that was why the Department of Energy was created.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      How many worthwhile places have you gone in a single step?
    • Re:Flashback! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:38PM (#32023942)

      Well Nimby is hard to defeat.

      Objections for marine deployment of this type of farm are mostly navigational (ships mostly skirt this area beyond nantucket Island but smaller craft and fishing vessels could see collisions), radar interference, and a whole bunch of people that want to push even visual impacts onto someone else. (Bird strikes are for the most part gross exaggerations, long since debunked.)

      Driving in the west, I find the wind farms something majestic. I suppose I would not want one directly over my house, which is why the off shore solution is perfect for the eastern seaboard. These things are quiet, and have a proven track record of reliability. Standing up to the salt air may be an issue.

      The Indian tribes build casinos on their own ancestral sacred grounds but somehow object to wind farms out on the water. This was never a sea-going tribe. But a few perks from Uncle Ted and sure enough a spirit dreamed up just last night will be annoyed.

      Its odd that Kennedy's objections were enough to hold this project off under republican administrations, but as soon as he is dead, even the Democrats decide its good to go.

      • by eln (21727) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:49PM (#32024102) Homepage
        From what I understand, the objection of the Indian tribes was that it might disturb ancient burial grounds that are on land that used to be above water but now isn't. I find it hard to believe they've kept track of where any of those burial grounds are since they've presumably been underwater for many decades, but I suppose we could find them by burying dead pets in the ocean floor and seeing which ones come back to life, then simply avoiding those areas.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tompaulco (629533)
          Why are Native American burial grounds more important than everybody else's burial grounds? Progress happens, cemeteries close or move. But for some reason, just because it happens to be a "possible" burial ground for Native Americans many hundreds of years ago, we have to toss this idea out?
          What proof have they that this area was above sea level centuries ago? I think we have more proof to the contrary. We have proof that the backbay part of Boston was BELOW sea level until they brought in fill to raise
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by biryokumaru (822262)
            "We wanted to build the church on an ancient Indian burial ground, but none were available in the area. We had to have it imported from Nantucket."
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by mattack2 (1165421)

            Because they're all haunted.

            Jeez, haven't you seen any movies?

        • Once they get the rights to build casinos alongside the wind farms they'll come on board.

      • Re:Flashback! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dakameleon (1126377) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:17PM (#32024442)

        Standing up to the salt air may be an issue.

        The Dutch [home.wxs.nl] have had them for a couple of years [nytimes.com], so there's at least some precedent and any issues they encounter are likely to give a 4 - 5 year heads up to this initiative.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ElBorba (221626)

      I love the suggestion that these turbines somehow reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We don't use any foreign oil whatsoever to generate electricity. Sorry Mr. Salazar.

      • Re:Flashback! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:59PM (#32024218) Journal

        We don't use any foreign oil whatsoever to generate electricity.

        You got proof of that?

        We use oil to generate 3% of our electricity. It's bigger than all "alternative" sources (like wind farms) combined. If we use less oil for electricity, we will need less oil overall, which will reduce demand for foreign and domestic oil alike.

        If we have more electricity, we may use more electricity for home heating or cars, so this works on both supply and demand.

        So unless you've got a credible citation for your claim, I'm going to say fie.

        • Re:Flashback! (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:51PM (#32024786)

          the U.S. Energy Information Administration would disagree with you there. They claim (data from 2008, report released Jan 21st 2010) that 1.1% of the U.S. electrical power is generated from Petroleum products while 3.1% is generated by "Other Renewables" (solar, wind, etc)

          http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/figes1.html [doe.gov]

          • Re:Flashback! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by MikeURL (890801) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:33AM (#32026748) Journal
            Coal is a disaster for air quality. If we were really smart we'd try to focus on using wind farms to replace coal fired plants where possible.

            Of course it is silly to suggest that wind farms impact, in any substantial way, our dependence on foreign oil. What they SHOULD do is reduce our reliance on domestic coal. Reducing our reliance on foreign oil is almost purely a function of the weight of our cars and trucks and miles driven. Physics and thermodynamics are pretty unforgiving in this regard. If we really want to use less oil we have to drive smaller cars and trucks or drive the existing fleet less miles (or some combo). Also, any move toward electric vehicles that does not also include massive reduction in the use of coal will be a horrible development environmentally speaking.

            Longer term the smart move would seem to be smaller cars, more hybrids, more natural gas, more wind, more nuclear, less coal, less foreign oil.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by hairyfeet (841228)

              Do you have any data on batteries? Because from what I understand electric cars are basically worse the ICE (unless you are driving a Hummer) because of the amount of energy used in the creation and recycling of the highly poisonous batteries. Although I agree completely that coal has got to go, as they not only pollute with greenhouse gasses but with radioactive waste [scientificamerican.com].

              From what I understand until we come up with better energy storage and retrieval technology electric cars are only good for those that run

      • Re:Flashback! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by coolsnowmen (695297) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @09:41PM (#32025726)

        Here is possible argument. Our dependance on foreign oil is clearly for transportation and not electricity generation, but our use of oil for transportation will always be financially motivated. The cheaper we can make electricity by investing in the future of renewable energy, the easier a transition to eletric (hybrid and full) cars can be. It is already possible to recharge your hybrid car with electricity, just as you can refuel it at the pump.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:18PM (#32023662)

    As a resident of SE Mass, I'm thrilled. Just think: Massachusetts has enough windy coastline to power most of the state with turbine farms. All we need to do is go through this process another 30-40 times! We should be done by the year 2500 or so!

    • And when the wind stops, make sure you have candles handy...
      • by lupine (100665) *
        Or you use the power saved in your pumped storage system. [masstech.org]
      • by Yvan256 (722131) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:46PM (#32024070) Homepage Journal

        When the wind stops, just connect a whole lot of fans to Flander's house.

      • Re:About damn time. (Score:5, Informative)

        by careysub (976506) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:34PM (#32024590)

        And when the wind stops, make sure you have candles handy...

        This may just be a wry comment, and not an attempt at serious criticism, but this point is often brought up to criticize both solar and wind power. And certainly it sounds like a serious problem since, after all, existing power systems are on-line all the time, and having a major aspect of the power system dependent on something as fickle as weather introduces serious unresolved problems into power grid management.

        Doesn't it??

        No, it doesn't.

        The reality is that even "base load" (constant output) plants get shut down for extended periods for maintenance of various kinds, not infrequently unpredictably due to equipment problems. And, due to large fluctuations in power demand across the daily cycle (which can be unpredictable due to weather) there must be special expensive peaking power plants anyway.

        It turns out that managing a diverse national power grid has a substantial component of solar and wind power is exactly like managing one that doesn't. A lot of solar and wind power necessarily means many plants spread over a vast geographical area, and while the wind may die (or the sky may cloud over) down in one place, it will be blowing hard (or shining brightly) in others. The power fluctuations are no worse than fluctuation in demand, and both are addressed in the same way - by having peaking capacity in with costly peaking plants, or some energy storage method, and by having redundancy in base load plant capacity.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shermo (1284310)

          It turns out that managing a diverse national power grid has a substantial component of solar and wind power is exactly like managing one that doesn't.

          No it really isn't. Adding in intermittent supply to a system with intermittent demand makes the supply/demand balance much harder to get right.

          The power fluctuations are no worse than fluctuation in demand

          When everyone wakes up and turns on their toaster in the morning power usage goes up. This is highly predictable behaviour and over the course of morning, the demand will trend up. The rate of this change is a little bit variable, but it has nothing on wind farm variability.

          Increases of +/- 30% are regularly observed over 15 minute periods on individual wind farms,

    • by davester666 (731373) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:39PM (#32023952) Journal

      Yes, but what happens when all the politician's move away because these wind turbines are an eyesore? Is it easy to relocate the turbines to wherever the politicians relocate to?

  • by pgmrdlm (1642279) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:20PM (#32023702) Journal

    The Wampanoag Indian tribes, I totally respect their position about the burial ground.

    Ted Kennedy was just a hypocrite. He was all for green energy EXCEPT when it was in his back yard.

    It’s about time this was passed. Now maybe they can put these wind farms on the Great Lakes also.

    • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:35PM (#32023902)

      If Christians had said that it messed up sunrise services for Easter would you have been respecting their position too?

      Mass transit authorities put trains under cemeteries all the time, why should these guys be any different?

      Oh and they have really good leadership too
      http://boston.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel09/campaignviolations021109.htm [fbi.gov]

      "In February 2009 Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe chairman Glenn A. Marshall pleaded guilty to federal charges of violations of campaign finance law, tax fraud, wire fraud, and Social Security fraud – all in connection with the effort to secure federal recognition for the tribe."

    • I actually thought that was the least reasonable argument. Saying "somebody was buried there once" is not a good argument for, well, much of anything. Spiritual beliefs aside, the one thing we're sure about today is that you aren't using your body any more when you're dead. That pretty much precludes your having any rights regarding it. How many people have been buried at sea? How dare you lay an undersea cable, or eat a fish? The whole thing is ridiculous. Everyone else has to buy land if they want their corpse to stay there, why should they be any different? I think it's been conclusively shown that being somewhere first is not enough, unfortunate or no.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by youngone (975102)
      Why would you totally respect their position? They don't know if there are burial grounds there. From the Article: "would disturb spiritual sun greetings and possibly ancestral artifacts and burial grounds on the seabed. The ocean floor was once exposed land before the sea level rose thousands of years ago." So, thousands of years ago, some people may or may not have lived on some land that is now under sea. We'll probably never know, and the Wampanoag people don't either. Now everyone come back at me w
  • Yea! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@b[ ].org ['eau' in gap]> on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:21PM (#32023708)

    All the other objections were just bullcrap political cover for the real reason the project never got off the ground until now; Senator Kennedy didn't want to see the turbines in HIS view. Now that he has went to Hell progress will be rapid.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ascari (1400977)

      Senator Kennedy didn't want to see the turbines in HIS view. Now that he has went to Hell progress will be rapid.

      Not for everyone: By the same token geothermal energy is doomed...

    • Senator Kennedy didn't want to see the turbines in HIS view.

      For those of us who are not intimate with American politics -- why is this moderated insightful, flamebait and troll? And which Kennedy would that be?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Beezlebub33 (1220368)
        Ted Kennedy, youngest brother of JFK (president) and RFK (US Attorney General and Democrat presidential candidate). Ted Kennedy was a polarizing figure, called the Lion of the Senate, famous for having driven off a bridge (killing the female passenger), drinking a lot, being liberal, and having a wicked Massachusetts accent. If not for the bridge incident, he quite possibly would have become president.

        It's insightful because it is claimed that it was largely Ted Kennedy's hypocrisy of wanting alternati
      • Re:Yea! (Score:4, Informative)

        by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@b[ ].org ['eau' in gap]> on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:47PM (#32024744)

        > For those of us who are not intimate with American politics -- why is this moderated insightful, flamebait and troll?

        Because Senator Edward M. "Swim Bitch!" Kennedy is a very polarizing figure. To people like me he represents everything wrong with Progressivism and the Democrat Party. A repulsive scion of a gangster family who made a career out of demagoguery and debauchery. To them he was sort of a god, the Liberal Lion of the Senate and the last fading glory of Camelot.

        But everyone agrees with this much: he was he was a very powerful politician with essentially a lifetime appointment to the Senate who single handedly stopped the Cape Cod wind project cold in its tracks while he lived.

        I'm not very green but I certainly like the idea of wind energy in places like that where it is both abundant and close enough to population centers to make delivery simple. That couldn't happen because one wicked yet powerful man stood in the way. He is now safely roasting in Hell and now we can tap a practical source of energy. Yea!

      • Cape Wind (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjbe (173966)

        For those of us who are not intimate with American politics -- why is this moderated insightful, flamebait and troll? And which Kennedy would that be?

        Because it is true and simultaneously embarrassing to parts of the electorate. Ted Kennedy [wikipedia.org] is who we are talking about here though the Kennedy family in general matters for this story - Ted until his death was merely the most prominent member of the family in recent years. He ostensibly supported green energy but when it was proposed to put a wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts (his home state) he opposed it or at least opposed this particular wind farm. The opposition is more complicated [wikipedia.org] than many h

  • Figures (Score:3, Funny)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:27PM (#32023794)
    Bean town gets the first windmill farm.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Government approves offshore wind farm, with the caveat that they are responsible for the cleanup of wind spills.

  • Good move... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plopez (54068) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:30PM (#32023842) Journal

    I know people in the area. They told me the biggest objections came from people living in NYC and Conn. who had summer and weekend homes in the area. The thing is some 15 miles off of the coast. The people most bothered will be on their yachts miles out to sea.

    Basically we have some choices;
    1) Invest in newer, cleaner forms of energy
    or
    2) continue to destroy the environment, kill oil rig workers and coal miners, and rely on oppressive regimes in oil producing nations, e.g., Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela.

    AFAIAC, this is a sudden outbreak of common sense.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cdrguru (88047)

      One simple fact that a lot of people miss. Industrial and contstruction accidents kill people. Has been a fact of life since the pyramids.

      You die just as dead falling off a 400 foot tower as you do from a burning oil rig. In both cases it is highly likely the body is never recovered. You die just as badly buried in the earth in some mine as you do when there is a mishap involving a wind turbine or the power grid it is connected to.

      This isn't going to save any lives. They might die differently, but thes

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Just because it is still possible to die doesn't mean the probabilities are the same. I'm willing to heavily bet that a wind farm is significantly safer for many, many reasons.

      • by Amouth (879122)

        i'm not sure you under stand the size of these wind mills..

        a person can fit inside the gearbox normally.. they aren't going to be siting on top of the thing..

        there is a risk of falling yes - 400 feet max into water.. (a lot safer than 400 feet to ground)

        there is also the risk of rotating equipment.. same as ANY industrial plant that does anything really.

        the people that would maintain these are normally trained very well in the hazards of their jobs.. i would expect the danger to be no greater than for the p

      • Re:Good move... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:18PM (#32024452) Homepage

        LOL, it's the "all software has bugs, therefore all software is equally buggy" fallacy recycled for safety evaluation.

        All jobs involve risk, therefore all jobs are equally risky! Every form of power generation involves the possibility that someone will die, ergo changing forms of power generation will not change the number of people who die.

        Yeah.

        By the way, unlike monolithic power generation, individual turbines in a wind farm can be shut down without significantly reducing the overall output. Shutting them down for maintenance is exactly what they're going to do.

    • Re:Good move... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Allnighte (1794642) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:02PM (#32024254)

      I know people in the area. They told me the biggest objections came from people living in NYC and Conn. who had summer and weekend homes in the area. The thing is some 15 miles off of the coast. The people most bothered will be on their yachts miles out to sea.

      Can you really blame them? Take a look at the estimated visual impact of the wind farm:
      http://www.capewind.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=9&page=1 [capewind.org]

      I don't know about you but I'd obviously rather stab my eyes out and burn down my vacation home than see those ugly filthy things on the horizon. /sarcasm

  • by Superdarion (1286310) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:57PM (#32024208)
    It's kind of funny that this happened around the time when MIT researchers talk about the posible impact of massively deployed wind turbines [nextbigfuture.com]

    Pardon the bad source, but I don't have time to really look into it.
  • wiff! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fishbulb (32296) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:58PM (#32024214)

    America's first? Really? Are we that far behind the times?

    Sad.

  • by bmacs27 (1314285) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:41PM (#32024684)
    I had a chance to speak with Bobby Kennedy Jr. about the issue. He's been one of the lawyers fighting it vigorously. He's also the author of "Crimes Against Nature," and has been a vocal proponent of environmental causes in general. Many think Kennedy's position is simply a NIMBY argument. It's not at all a case. In his words, "it's just a bad project." It has more to do with the utility's interest than the public.

    The issue is that those particular waters are already a heavily used commons. There's a lot of low impact commercial fishing, and tourism that already generate value off the currently common waters. Scattered turbines, and more important, a large network of underwater cabling, would muck up existing interests in the waters. They've proposed alternative plans in Massachusetts waters which would only moderately impact average wind speeds, and would vastly mitigate negative economic consequences, only to be repeatedly killed by the utility.

    Having grown up in Massachusetts, I'm disappointed they let this happen.
  • by kjell79 (215108) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @08:02PM (#32024906)

    You'd think that people with ocean-side real estate would want something like this. Either that or we can just burn some more coal or oil and their houses can underwater instead. Would they still be land owners?

  • by coolsnowmen (695297) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @09:54PM (#32025832)

    There seem to be a large amount of /. posters who don't understand one of the biggest immediate benefits to wind+solar energy. Currently, if you don't want brown outs you have to build an eletric grid that can supply as much power as everyone could every try and use at one time. This causes us to spend way more in for large capacity power plants, and also lose a lot of energy in the distribution of energy itself.

    So, when are the peak energy demands for the USA? In the middle of the day, and In the summer. Hmm, when are the peak production times for Wind and Solar (its the same!).

    To fully move off things like coal, we would need to have better ways of storing energy, people are already working on this (gyroscopes, batteries, pumping water uphill), but that is the second step, not the first.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by atamido (1020905)

      So, when are the peak energy demands for the USA? In the middle of the day, and In the summer. Hmm, when are the peak production times for Wind and Solar (its the same!).

      This is not true. Wind farms in Tehachapi, CA are most active during the morning and evening hours due to sudden pressure changes in the desert as a result of heating and cooling. Pressures equalize by the middle of the day and the middle of the night, precisely during peak power (needed heating or cooling). Granted, that's only one location, but it's a big one. Solar, on the other hand, is more or less most active during peak power.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:26PM (#32026030) Homepage

    California has only a few good sites for land wind farms [ca.gov] - Altamont Pass, Pacheco Pass, Mojave, and Solano County are the big ones. All four now have big wind farms. Other than Altamont Pass, which is a big migratory bird corridor and has row after row of windmills, there have been few complaints. There aren't many remaining on-shore sites in California; we're about done with onshore wind. The Cape Cod people have been whining about their wind farm for a decade. Tough.

    Offshore of Calfornia looks promising. Take a look at that high-wind area close to shore, west of Humbolt County. There's also a huge high wind zone south of Santa Barbara, and most of it is still on the continental shelf, so the water isn't too deep. I doubt there will be objections; Santa Barbara has already had off-shore oil wells.

  • Its a start (Score:5, Interesting)

    by senorbum (1795816) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:57PM (#32026544)
    For people who are complaining that wind tech/solar tech isn't there yet, I think you have to think of the politics behind this. If we get the ball moving now and get lawmakers and the public to overall have a good impression of these energy generation systems, when the technologies do improve it will be vastly easier to implement them. The biggest issue I see extends not only to clean tech, but all tech. America's energy infrastructure is incredibly aged and inefficient. Power consumption will continue to increase which will continue to strain the system. So even if our energy source is clean, there is still a large energy issue that needs to be addressed.

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