Cape Wind

There is an 480 MW offshore wind project proposed in Nantucket Sound. The project been controversial, and has had huge challenges in obtaining permits to build. Cape Wind, Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound is a book that describes the challenges. What a page turner!

If you have ever encountered opposition to wind turbines, or if you have any connection with Cape Cod, or if you want to learn more about the US political process, this book is a must read.

The project is proposed for about 5-6 miles from shore, but visible from Osterville and Hyannis, where the East Coast rich and famous have their summer mansions on their private beaches, and apparently, their private sailing waters too. The tactics employed by the “Alliance to Protect the Sound”, a group funded by the very wealthy, to impose their world view on the area were revealing. Why is it that every NIMBY group uses mis-information, repeated many times, personal insult and slur, and overall rudeness? It seems to be universal.

Bunny Melon, Listerine heiress, accused a lawyer who professed to like the wind proposal of “betraying his class.” Interesting. I thought the American value system was supposed to be classless – that all were allowed to advance his/her lot in life, and that the family you were born into didn’t matter. Indeed, it is interesting that Massachusetts, where the US war of Independance began with a protest against the taxes imposed by the aristicrats in far away England is now home to a class system where the wealthy get their way regardless of the greater good, and if not through public opinion, then through back room politics, and legal manouvers. The French had a revolution over this. I worry about America sometimes.

Senator Kennedy and Governor Milt Romney don’t fare well in this book. Indeed, if democracy works, their days should be numbered. The tactics they used in opposing the wind farm are undemocratic and shameful. And as always, the description of how the US political system “works” is fascinating to this far off Canadian. After all, it was an Alaska representatative who introduced an amendment to a Coast Guard funding bill that almost derailed the project.

I had followed the progress, but at a distance, of the Cape Wind proposal in the pages of wind publications. This book took me up close, and made me realize that I, a small player in the wind business, in a different country, was closer to this story than I knew. The experience with opponents of wind is the same. The bureacracy of obtaining permits is the same. The challenges in breaking new ground is the same. The book even made mention of Nick Humber. He was an employee of General Electric wind division. I was sitting beside him in a meeting of the Ontario Wind Power Task Force, working to educate Ontario bureaucrats on wind around September 1, 2001. He was on the plane from Boston that struck one of the Trade Center towers.

The idea for Cape Wind is Jim Gordon’s. His stubborn tenacity as he faces down government, the wealthy, the forces for the status quo, and their hired henchmen is something that every wind developer will understand. He tried to keep his teenage son and wife away from the maelstrom in general, but he did invite them with him to a conference on wind energy at MIT. Gordon’s 16 year old son, while washing their hands in the bathroom, turned to his Dad and said, “Dad. I just want you to know something. I’m really proud of you.”

I suspect that is what kept him going.

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