Concerns about Rational Decisions
It's time for the old guard to join the new century
By Liz Argo
On Wed., November 17, the Cape Cod Assembly of Delegates chose to remand the proposed Minimum Performance Standards back to the Cape Cod Commission on the basis that the Minimum Performance Standards were not clear or restrictive enough. Acceptance of the Minimum Performance Standards would have allowed the CCC to begin the creation of a Technical Bulletin, in which, it was explained, the standards and restrictions would then have been defined. The decision spells probable further delay in moving the Cape Cod Commission into a position of authority over wind project development on Cape Cod.
Cape & Islands Wind Network (CIWIN) representatives attended both initial hearings on the proposed Minimum Performance Standards held by the Assembly committee in late October and in early November. While the hearings were meant to provide opportunity for public comment on the proposed standards, the two days of testimony were dedicated to hearing from community members set in opposition to wind development, including many members of the Falmouth community impacted by the turbine technology installed at Falmouth 1, admittedly a noisier and older turbine technology. Any testimony in favor of accepting the Minimum Performance Standards, and thus in favor of creating an actual Technical Bulletin with standards, were in short supply at the public hearings. Ironically, the development of standards by the CCC could have been crafted to avert issues like those now causing difficulty for community members in Falmouth.
Massachusetts has a mandate to bring 2000 MW of wind development online by 2020.
Massachusetts has a mandate to bring 2000 MW of wind development online by 2020. The decision to bring wind forward in Massachusetts is based on wind's assessed future contribution to electric price stability, on its contribution to the Massachusetts economy as a new business sector, and, call it altruistic, on its dynamic to mitigate climate change. (Some would add that meeting the mandate will bring troops home.)
Large wind projects have been successful at the Mass Military Base, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, at Hull Massachusetts, and at Portsmouth Rhode Island. These communities have no complaints lodged against their turbines, and the installations are delivering better-than-projected electrical production results.
The Cape is wealthy in wind. Yet Cape Cod representatives have turned back seven wind turbine proposals in 4 years, including those for the Cape Cod Community College, the Aquacultural Research Corporation, the Town of Wellfleet, the Town of Harwich, and the Town of Orleans. Even the current Brewster proposal for two turbines to benefit the entire Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) is challenged, despite the fact that CVEC's Brewster project is undeniably well-sited. Over 1,800 feet, and the noise from Route 6, lie between the Brewster industrial park turbines and their nearest neighbor, a neighbor who stands firmly supportive of the project after visiting Hull.
Nonetheless, at the Brewster special permit hearing on November 10th, the Planning Board was bombarded by a few citizens who were angry and tearful because the "research" they had done on the internet had led them to horror stories and misinformation. Some of those opposed even lived over 6,000 feet away from the proposed industrial park project.
The Brewster project is a project that should not be upended by unknowns and apprehensions. The Brewster wind project offers distances from all residences that is more than adequate and better than that seen at the successful installations in Hull, Portsmouth, and Bourne. The ample distances offered by the Brewster project may not be the case in future wind proposals on Cape Cod and they will deserve a different outcome. But in the case of the Brewster project, the project is extremely well sited.
Fear and politics seem to have co-opted the careful and responsible review that should attend wind energy proposals.
Fear and politics seem to have co-opted the careful and responsible review that should attend wind energy proposals. Instead of rationale, local review representatives witness a citizenry that is terrified by misinformation. It is reminiscent of the outcry against Guglielmo Marconi 's work on radio waves, or the outcry against cars due to their frightening effect on horses. It's reminiscent of the old fears of microwaves and high tension wires. Even elevators terrified the public when first introduced.
Politicians, hopeful of reelection, can not be expected to stand tall in the face of the kind of hysteria we're seeing demonstrated at Cape Cod hearings on wind projects. An over-riding agency is needed, whether it is the Cape Cod Commission, using, as yet, undeveloped Technical Standards, or, it is the proposed State Wind Energy Siting Board. The process needs rescuing. Our local representatives are under too much pressure and are not equipped to sort the hysteria from the facts.
Acknowledging the success of the wind projects in Portsmouth, in Hull, at the Military Base, and at the Maritime Academy, should Cape Cod communities, institutions, and businesses continue to be denied appropriately sited wind proposals in the face of an emotional and misinformed citizenry? While we wait for wind energy standards to be developed, can we hope that our representatives will better take their cue from history? Can our representatives stand for change that represents a greater public benefit, like the change to accept radiowaves and elevators, even when they are unpopular with some?
For now, this is what we must hope. If we are to see the benefits from wind projects come to Cape Cod, it will be up to our local representatives. It will be their job to help move Cape Cod into accepting appropriately sited, modern wind technology, a technology that has been accepted by much of the world and benefits our neighbors in Hull, Bourne and Portsmouth, RI.