Cape Cod’s Big Wind

There’s no doubt that wind and solar are clean, efficient and renewable sources of energy, but not everyone welcomes an alternative power project in their backyard. A proposed 170-turbine wind park off the southern coast of Massachusetts has generated considerable heat, but no power yet.

The planned park on Horseshoe Shoals in Nantucket Sound has drawn criticism from local officials who feel that the site will detract from the natural beauty of the region and commercial fishermen who fear damage to a prime fishing area.

Natural aesthetics is no small consideration in a region where 44 percent of the local economy is based on tourism. The area is well known for its scenic beaches and quaint villages. The town of Barnstable, while having no regulatory control over the Shoal, has passed a resolution calling the plan "devastating to the incredible beauty of Nantucket Sound."

Cape Wind Associates, a partnership of Energy Management and Wind Management, proposed the $500 million wind park, which could generate 420 megawatts annually. The proposed site, now in the permitting stage with construction slated to begin in 2003, lies five miles off the southern coast of the Cape. It would be the first offshore wind park in the U.S.

Brian Braginton-Smith, vice president of project development at Wind Management and founder of the Conservation Consortium, believes he understands the criticism. "People react differently to change," he says. "But we feel the positive advantages of this plan will overcome the fearful reactions."

William Nye, a Centerville resident and retired civil engineer, likes the idea of wind power but questions the location. "This Sound is owned by all of us; it is a popular fishing spot and should not be used by private industry," he says. "There are land sites which would be easier to build on and to maintain."

Ron Borjeson, vice president of the Massachusetts Commercial Fishermen’s Association, says the towers would obstruct fishing on the Shoal. "We are 100 percent for the energy concept, but the location is all wrong," he says. "This plan would destroy our livelihood." Borjeson has started a petition against the wind park, and the group plans an extensive letter-writing campaign targeting legislators.

"The issue of fisheries is really just a red herring," counters Braginton-Smith.

"In the long-term, this plan may be beneficial to fish populations. The visual impact on the Sound is the only real issue."