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Protesters -- Native Americans and environmentalists -- have vowed to sue to try to stop the project after its government approval.   (Source: AP Photo/Julia Cumes)

Cape Wind will provide 468 MW of power at peak capacity. It will be fully operational by 2025 and will look somewhat like this plant -- the Nysted offshore wind farm off the coast of Denmark in the Baltic Sea   (Source: Cape Wind)

Much like with nuclear power environmental advocates find deaf ears in the Obama administration

While no wind resource can be viewed as continuous, off-shore wind tends to be more steady and stronger than land-based wind.  For that reason, off-shore wind is viewed as a very promising form of alternative energy.

It is also controversial.  Property owners hate for their water-front views to be marred by massive, spinning turbines.  Some criticize the wind-farms as too expensive compared to traditional fossil fuel power.  And some environmentalists complain that the farms disrupt shallow-water wildlife.

Despite a concerted effort by environmentalists and the Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah Native American tribes, the federal government has approved the nation's first offshore wind farm.  Much like with the recent nuclear power debate, the pleas of environmental advocates fell on deaf ears with the Obama administration.  Yesterday, the farm was given the go-ahead by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

At a joint State House news conference with Mass. Governor Deval Patrick, Salazar remarked, "This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast.  I am convinced there is a path we can take forward that both honors our responsibility to protect historical and cultural resources and at the same time meets the need to repower our economy with clean energy produced from wind power."

Patrick chimed in, "America needs offshore wind power and with this project, Massachusetts will lead the nation."

The new farm will be built in the Nantucket Sound called Horseshoe Shoal .  It will consist of 130 turbines, each measuring 258-feet tall and producing up to 3.6 megawatts of power.  The total capacity will be approximately 468 megawatts at peak, with an average output of around 170 megawatts.

It is being constructed by Energy Management Inc. (EMI). EMI is a Massachusetts-based energy company.  An independent analyst firm Charles River Associates examined the project as says that it will likely cost $1B USD to $2B USD, but will be able to provide up to $185M USD yearly in power savings.

The government is helping EMI recoup the massive up front investment a bit faster with renewable energy tax credits available to consumers to discount the wind power.  The government will also be offering up $10M USD to help mitigate the impact the plant on local wildlife and on the Native American relics buried in the Shoal.  Still, the project is more independent from taxpayer funding than most.

Mass. Senator John F. Kerry, a former Democratic presidential candidate, cheered the news, stating, "I believe the future of wind power in the Massachusetts and the United States will be stronger knowing that the process was exhaustive, and that it was allowed to work and wind its way through the vetting at all levels with public input.  This is jobs and clean energy for Massachusetts."

The project is expected to provide 1,000 construction jobs over the next few years and create 150 permanent jobs.  It is expected to provide 20 percent of Massachusetts' electricity by 2025 and save over 5 million tons of carbon yearly.

Still the project faces a bit of a fight ahead.  The Native American and environmentalist groups who opposed the project have vowed to ban together and file lawsuits to try to derail the project.

States Audra Parker, president and chief executive of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, "While the Obama Administration today dealt a blow to all of us who care deeply about preserving our most precious natural treasures – this fight is not over.  Litigation remains the option of last resort. However, when the federal government is intent on trampling the rights of Native Americans and the people of Cape Cod, we must act."

Pat Parenteau, who teaches at Vermont Law School, says that the groups are unlikely to be able to obtain an injunction using federal laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.  The best they can do, he believes, is to delay the project's construction by a couple of years.

There are pending off-shore wind projects in Texas and Delaware, as well.

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the real problem
By shin0bi272 on 4/29/2010 10:33:44 AM , Rating: 1
For the energy that it takes to make these turbines the turbine doesnt recoup over its lifetime. Then the other issue... youd need 6700 of these turbines to match the output of 1 large natural gas plant. So really the ecomentalists need to STFU and go away.

RE: the real problem
By namechamps on 4/29/2010 10:55:56 AM , Rating: 4

How did you come up with that "math"?

Average natural gas plant is about 200-400 MW. Large multi-turbine combined cycle plants might be 800 MW.

So 800 MW peak power / 3.2 MW peak power = 250 turbines.

For an equal amount of capacity would require 250 turbines not 6700.

Now factor in capacity factor. Usually natural gas turbines have low capacity factor because natural gas is expensive (30%-40%) but lets say a natural gas turbine was used for baseload and had a capacity factor of 70%. The windfarm is rated for 37% capacity factor. Once again to put numbers in your favor lets say it only gets 30%.

800 MW peak * 0.70 = 560 MW average.
3.2 MW peak * 0.30 = ~1 MW average.

For same amount of annual generation it would take about 560 turbines not 6700 (and that is under conditions most favorable to natural gas plant).

RE: the real problem
By mcnabney on 4/29/2010 12:44:07 PM , Rating: 2
As an FYI

Wind power costs about ~$1.4M per megawatt in acquisition and installation costs.

So replacing a very large 2GW reactor would cost around $3B. About half what was previously quoted for a new reactor in Colorado.

RE: the real problem
By Matthiasa on 4/29/2010 1:58:04 PM , Rating: 2
To bad you can't rely one the the wind. I sat through a nice presentation on renewable energy by a renewable energy group from a university in my state and they had some fun facts like. While a 1GW wind farm might only average 20-30% of peak per year, it isn't reliable. If the wind decides to stop and you don't know in advance it costs literally 100 times more to get power from elsewhere to provide backup.
The only reason wind is even slightly viable right now is that it is such a small percent( of the grid(so when the wind stops there's little issue at even 10% that is not the case) and there are huge government payments to those who run the wind farms.

Might I suggest you look at how wind farms have to be statistically modeled for load determination on the grid and what havoc that it can cause.

RE: the real problem
By namechamps on 4/30/2010 8:32:21 AM , Rating: 2
Not exactly. You are ignoring capacity factor.

We don't consume power we consume energy (power x time).

Nuclear reactors in US have capacity factor of about 92%.
Wind power in US has a capacity factor of 26%.

Capacity factor is simply a measure of delivered energy over theoretical energy.

A 2 GW plan theoretically could deliver 2 GW * 24 * 365 *100% = 17,520 GWh annually.

So roughly speaking it takes (0.92/0.26 = 3.5) 3.5 MW of wind capacity to deliver same energy as 1 MW of nuclear capacity.

So replacing a nuclear large nuclear plant (2 x 1200 MW) would require 2400 x 3.5 = 8400 MW of wind. At $1.4mil per MW that's $11.7 Billion (not $3 billion).

Also wind installation costs are creeping towards $2000 per KW which would put cost at more like $16.8 billion.

New wind & new nuclear are competitive when you measure them apples to apples.

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