Christy's windmills look good from here

The more wind turbines built, the sooner more people will like them
Restoring wind power to its rightful prominence all over Cape Cod

Convenience store magnate Christy Mihos wants to build wind turbines at 10 of his stores on Cape Cod to offset his ever-rising electric bills.

Mihos is also co-chairman of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, an organization devoted to thwarting the offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.

This makes Mihos a rank hypocrite, right? Not at all.

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Given the region's abundant wind, it is hardly an accident that one of the most enduring symbols of the Cape and islands is the windmill
Horseshoe Shoal, where Cape Wind wants to build a utility-scale project of 130 turbines, is not the only local site well-suited to wind. That's why the Massachusetts Maritime Academy built a turbine at its Buzzards Bay campus last year, why a half-dozen towns on the Cape have proposed building municipal wind generators, and why developer Jay Cashman is seeking permits for three arrays of offshore wind turbines in Buzzards Bay.

Given the region's abundant wind, it is hardly an accident that one of the most enduring symbols of the Cape and islands is the windmill (along with the sailboat).

The handful of venerated wooden windmills that remain were once essential workhorses in the local economy, grinding corn and pumping water. With the coming of the age of oil in the late 19th century, wind power was largely abandoned for the next century -- until rising oil prices and growing awareness of the finite nature of fossil fuels made wind power appealing once again.

Disarmingly natural and honest 

When contacted by capecodtoday about his proposal, Mihos said he was not aware whether his turbines would qualify for any government grants, subsidies or tax credits.

"I'm acting as a business person who keeps seeing his energy costs going through the roof," Mihos said, citing a $46,000 annual cost for electricity at his Ocean Street store in Hyannis. "I also have 125 people who depend on me every week for a paycheck, and who each and every year expect a better stead in life.

"It may be folly, but I think it's definitely worth pursuing," Mihos said.

According to analysis by Mihos' consultant Brian Braginton-Smith -- an early partner in the Cape Wind venture -- the $40,000 to $60,000 cost for the turbines at each store, a cost borne entirely by Mihos, would be covered within eight years by the electricity they'd generate.

"I'm not going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on this just to make myself look good," Mihos said. "I believe in wind power and want to see it succeed."Mihos' turbines would bear little resemblance to the classic three-blade monopole to be used by Cape Wind. Instead, they would look like oversized electric fans and would be situated 31 feet above the pavement, compared to Cape Wind's turbines extending more than 400 feet from sea level to the tip of the highest blade.

"I'm not going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on this just to make myself look good," Mihos said. "I believe in wind power and want to see it succeed."

Mihos also provided insight into why he opposes Cape Wind. It's not, he says, because the project would be visible from his waterfront home in Yarmouth, a common assumption on the part of Cape Wind supporters. "A lot of the time you wouldn't be able to see it," Mihos says.

While we couldn't disagree more with his opposition to Jim Gordon's visionary proposal for Nantucket Sound, we believe Christy Mihos deserves credit for recognizing a good idea when it comes along, and for his willingness to act on it.A former member and outspoken critic of the Mass. Turnpike Authority, Mihos says his objection to Cape Wind stems from a perception of the project representing a "special interest" dependent on state support to succeed. "If this was publicly owned, I wouldn't have a problem with it at all," he says.

While we couldn't disagree more with his opposition to Jim Gordon's visionary proposal for Nantucket Sound, we believe Christy Mihos deserves credit for recognizing a good idea when it comes along, and for his willingness to act on it.

Those inclined to criticize Mihos based on his role in the Alliance may do well to think again. Whenever a new wind turbine is built -- in the town of Hull, at the maritime academy and the electrical workers union off the Southeast Expressway in Boston, to cite recent examples -- wind power becomes that much more familiar and comfortable to more people.

One of the reasons why Cape Wind met with such opposition was that windmills, a once-ubiquituous feature on the local landscape, had come to be seen as locked and of little value in an irretrievable past.

What Christy Mihos wants to do, as does Jim Gordon, is restore wind power to its rightful prominence in providing for our energy needs  - JC

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