(Source: Morten Mitchell Larød)

Supporters of alternative energy are battling environmentalists and Native Americans over a proposed offshore wind farm in Massachusetts. The pending project would be the U.S.'s first offshore farm.  (Source: AP Photo/Julia Cumes)

Residents are battling a similar project in Michigan. The project could bring much needed jobs to the state and provide clean power, but it could also hurt the environment, cause health problems, raise power prices, and decrease land values.  (Source: MUSKEGON NEWS)
Wind farms are facing a tough sell despite potential

There are plenty of U.S. wind power success stories, but of late the pace of wind power adoption in the U.S. has slowed, even as it has soared in other nations like China.  Part of wind power's problem is the need for new high power transmission lines stretching to the remote stretches of land ideal for wind farms.  The nation's largest wind project, a Texas wind farm championed by billionaire T. Boone Pickens, fell apart when the funding for its transmission lines fell through.

Another major obstacle is public sentiment.  Across the country citizens have been moving to block local wind project, citing a variety of concerns. 

Among the most contentious battles has been a fight over a pending 130-turbine farm located off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.  Alternative energy advocates have spent millions lobbying local, state, and federal governments to adopt the project.  However, the project has been met with diverse resistance.

Environmental groups have blasted the project saying that it will destroy the beauty of the Nantucket Sound.  A tougher challenge has come from local Native Americans, who buried artifacts in the seabed and every morning perform a sunrise ceremony on the sound.  Members of the Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah tribes local to the region are both fighting the project.  They previously had managed to get the seabed classified in the National Register of Historic Places due to its buried artifacts, which may give them legal ammo to fight the project.

Other locals oppose the wind farm because it might raise their power costs (wind costs substantially more than traditional coal power or nuclear energy).  There are also worries about the health concerns that have been linked to active wind farms.

The wind farm, originally unveiled in 2001, would be the first U.S. offshore wind farm and would be able to by 2025 provide 20 percent of Massachusetts' power needs.  The Energy Management project is backed by President Obama, whose Interior Secretary Ken Salazar includes the farm in the President's alternative energy plan.  If the rival groups cannot reach a resolution by April, he says he will try to force one -- potentially forcing a wind farm on the locals.

States Salazar, "What happens to Cape Wind, whether it goes up or goes down, will not be determinative of wind energy in the United States.  The president and the department have made renewable energy one of the imperatives in our country."

Across the country in Ludington, Michigan, a similar fight is brewing.  While federal politicians have taken less note of the struggle between Havgul Clean Energy and local citizens, its nonetheless another intriguing example about the debate over the impact and cost of wind power.

Havgul, a Norwegian firm, wants to build a $3B USD wind farm off the shore of Lake Michigan.  The wind farm would feature between one hundred and two hundred thirty-story tall turbines.  The project, which is pending local, state, and federal approval could power 350,000 homes, and could bring many much-needed jobs to the state.

However, critics say that the project would hurt local wildlife and damage property values.  Pentwater resident Janet Webber comments, "I spend more time buying a car then they're asking us to decide on something that would be sitting out on our lake for the next hundred years."

The local voiced their concerns at a recent Town Hall meeting.

Wind power certainly isn't the only topic that's drawing such debate.  Similar objections have been voiced about similar massive scale construction projects, such as high speed rail.  The commonalities of these objections raise an interesting question.  Should the U.S. stick to an individualized approach when it comes to such projects, or should it push them through regardless of local objections?  That's a key question that faces the Obama administration as it watches China outperform the U.S. in laying down high speed rail and deploying alternative energy.

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