The Cape Cod Wind Farm

I just finished Cape Wind, a polemic describing the battle between a Boston energy developer and entrepreneur, James Gordon, and the Alliance For Nantucket Sound (aka Save our Sound, aka “SOS”, a well-funded, well-connected group (Kennedy, Warner, Mellon, Koch, Egan, Romney) opposing Gordon’s proposal to build a wind farm of more than 100 large turbines in federal water about six miles southeast of where I write this.

When the news of Gordon’s project became first known in 2001, I was reflexively opposed, even vehemently opposed given my love for Nantucket Sound, and in particular the area where the turbines would be sited, Horseshoe Shoal. It seemed to be a unanimous reaction in Cotuit and other environs, nearly everyone I knew was opposed to the project for a variety of reasons. My opposition came down to what I knew of the California wind farms constructed during the Carter administration when tax cuts made wind power a less-than-reputable tax dodge that left the state with little more than a cliche of a backdrop for many a movie. Those turbines, most of which were frozen in place, can be seen around Palm Springs. My fear was that if Gordon’s company went bankrupt, an immense amount of marine construction infrastructure could be abandoned offshore. As a fisherman, I tried to imagine the negative impact, but realized the bases of the turbines would probably act as artificial reefs.

As a sailor, I knew the place was not a great place to sail. Treacherously shallow, marked with a steep chop, too far from shore for a race or a particularly adventurous day sail.

I wrote a letter to my state representative, Matthew Patrick, and flamed him for supporting the project when he represented a town like Cotuit which seemed so opposed to it. Patrick wrote back, and we volleyed a civil debate for a few weeks.

Then I met the people at the Conservation Law Foundation, a non-profit in Boston which is not a bunch of tree hugging/dirt worshipers, but a collection of attorneys devoted to due process on environmental actions. The argument of the CLF was not for nor against the wind farm, but for allowing the project to be thoroughly reviewed by the permitting agencies and courts to establish a strong precedent for future projects. Because a precedent did not exist, the CLF argued it was only proper to permit Gordon’s Cape Wind proposal to proceed rather than be shouted down. Others, like Rick Burnes at Charles River Ventures, and Don Law, persuaded me that the US needed to show some credibility in renewable energy policy before it could begin to adopt a high-handed attitude with energy starved and environmentally unfriendly countries like China. In other words, the US needs to get its own backyard in order.

Today I am 100 percent in favor of the wind farm. The fact that the New England power grid is over-taxed, that fossil fuel prices continue to soar, that Cape Cod has some of the worst air pollution in the country thanks to its downwind status from New York City, New Jersey and the Rust Belt … and the fact that wind is a proven technology in Europe, delivering significant portions of their energy needs. It took me a while to get to this point of view, but like Walter Cronkite, I’ve changed my mind, going from outraged opponent to outraged proponent in six years.
The book is great. It won’t change any mind, its going to piss off a lot of people in the local yacht clubs and country clubs, the people writing the checks to oppose the project so it doesn’t ruin the view from their waterfront McMansions.

And I owe Matt Patrick an apology. The guy took a tough but courageous stand and withstood a challenge to his re-election due to people like me voting before thinking (he won by a mere 12 votes) .

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “The Cape Cod Wind Farm”

  1. Wind power is nice, but those things are massive guillotines for birds. In addition to being located over the water because that’s where the wind is, the water conveniently provides a hiding spot for all of the bodies. It’s actually very sad to see piles of dead birds by working wind farms.

  2. Not that two rights make a wrong, especially with birds, but — given the high mortality rate associated by tall buildings, wouldn’t your logic have action be taken against developers of buildings above a certain height?

  3. As to the bird issue… these are bird and bat killers and especially eagle and bat killers. There is simply no way around that and pointing to other causes of avian mortality only points to the fact that as we add more and more hazards, more and more birds will die. Why do we continue down the path of harm to the environment and other species especially when we ‘say’ we are trying to save them? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. We are smart enough to find solutions that will do no further harm to habitat and species. Let’s try using our brains for once! This is not a rich vs. poor battle. This is about our greed and the sacrifice of the voiceless to continue down that path.

  4. Dona,
    Re bird mortality, as O’Grady points out. Housecats account for more bird deaths than wind farms. If you’re happy with a fossil fueled world, power to you. If you have an alternative to generating the Cape’s power with Number 6 fuel oil, I’m all ears. Nuclear power perhaps?

  5. I’m leaning towards the nuclear power solution. Yeah, waste is a problem, but it is a big and ugly enough issue that it cannot be ignored by govt. It will be properly safeguarded.

    As far as cats go, I’m for sterilizing all of them so they can’t reproduce.. I hate cats. One of my favorite pastimes is stalking the neighborhood cats with a garden hose when they come around the bird feeder. POW!!!

  6. I am leaning toward nuke myself… I see it as the only real answer at the moment. As to cats. It is totally irresponsible to allow house cats outside without a leash or some form of control. Feral cats are not house cats… they just look like them. But the house cat problem aside, since it really has nothing to do with what we are talking about which is wind turbines. House cats do not kill eagles and those slow reproducing species like raptors and bats, wind turbines do.

  7. I would be in favor of more nukes as well.

    I’d suggest that if one were going to the trouble of building in the ocean, why not harness the water movement instead of the wind. Hydraulic force is much higher, and constant. Of course, I’m sure there would be possible environmental impacts to some species or other.

    While on the subject of vetoing one power source or another due to environmental impacts, I might suggest that global warming is not the largest or most certain threat imposed by the dependence on fossil fuels today. Whether we run out in 50, 100, or 200 years, we will eventually run out of all conviently accessible forms of fossil fuels. As we near the end of the resources, the costs will rise steeply, and will impact all facets of life in developed nations. There will be conflicts over the dwindling resources, and those conflicts will be both on a global scale amongst nations, and on a local scale amongst individuals trying to exist one day to the next. Those impacts are likely to threaten the human race more quickly than rising temperatures and flooding.

    Today, with lights on, power to our computers, fuel in our cars, and food in the cupboard, we have the luxury to debate the impacts to fish and fowl. Deprived of these things, concern for the spotted owl, the seagull, or the snail darter will quickly ebb.

    Just my 2 cents.


    How many birds and other wildlife do domestic cats kill each year in the U.S.?
    Exact numbers are unknown, but scientists estimate that nationwide, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion
    small mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks, each year. Cats kill common species such as Cardinal, Blue Jay, and House
    Wren, as well as rare and endangered species such as Piping Plover, Florida Scrub-Jay, and California Least Tern.
    There are more than 90 million pet cats in the United States. A 1997 nationwide poll showed that only 35% are kept exclusively
    indoors, leaving the majority of owned cats free to kill birds and other wildlife at least some of the time. In addition, millions of stray
    and feral cats roam our cities, suburbs, farmlands and natural areas. Abandoned by their owners or lost (stray), or descendants of
    strays and living in the wild (feral), these cats are victims of human irresponsibility due to abandonment and failure to spay or neuter
    pets. No one knows how many homeless cats there are in the U.S., but estimates range from 60 to 100 million. These cats lead short,
    miserable lives.
    Loss of

  9. I see the crazies have found your blog. You would think that the Audobon Society would be a pretty good authority on the avian issue. (They support Cape Wind BTW). But not for these bird brains.

  10. On the bird issue, with wind farms it’s all about the siting. Some have been sited in poor areas that raptors or other birds frequent and that is not good.

    Cape Wind on the other hand, has gone to great lenghts to study the bird issue. They have paid to put a platform on Horse Shoe Shoals with two types of radar over a number of months. I went out there to see it. They have counted every bird that flew through the area for several months and then extended the study time for many more months. It’s manned by biologists one of whom even powered out to see water birds flying through and landing in the area.

    In short the study found that there aren’t that many birds that fly through the area in the course of a year. Massachusetts Audabon Society approved of the project based on the findings of the study. They also insisted that they continue monitoring birds over a longer period of time before and after they wind farm is built. Cape Wind agreed to letting them do that and provided funding for the long term monitoring. For that the opponents refer to Mass Audobon as “on the take” or that their judgment will be clouded because the took money from Cape Wind to conduct the study.

    Anyone who knows the people at Mass. Audobon, knows that they will not hesitate at all to take action if they find the project detrimental to large populations of birds. Mass Audobon and others say that global warming kills more birds than wind farms do so they want to be as practical about renewable energy as they can.

    Why not other forms of renewable energy that don’t threaten birds? Wind power is the most technologically advanced form of renewable energy and it is the least expensive by far. Solar powered electricity from photovoltaic panels cost upwards of 30 cents per kWh. Wind is about 3 to 5 cents per kWh. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do both but for utility sized power plants wind turbines are the only thing that can compete.

  11. I am not opposed to the wind farm. BUT, until we as a region, state, and country are willing to address our much greater energy problems (a small example: quit allowing SUVs to be classified as light trucks; impose higher, cleaner energy standards on all vehicles), I can’t get enthusiastic about it.

    While we’re on the subject, I am vehemently opposed to the current craze for ethanol based on corn, too. Uses almost as much in fossil fuel as it saves; is bad for our already monocultural agribusiness at all levels (other crops, food for animals and humans, tax incentives for the wrong producers, etc.). There are many other crops and weeds that can be adapted to ethanol with much more efficiency.

    But we should start by reining in our extreme waste of resources. Indeed, if we don’t, we can hardly influence developing nations’ use of hydrocarbon fuels and rampant pollution.

  12. Agree with you Susan but I am opposed to Cape Wind and industrial wind farms.

    See this from the US Dept of Energy on electrical production from petroleum and lilquid fuels… Cape Wind is baing untruthful when they advertise they will lessen our dependence on foreign oil. What else are they being untruthful about? Pull down the 4th pdf – “Electricity Forecast”. Also please see:

  13. We need renewable energy and this is a good start. Wind is the cleanest renewable. I have seen a number of studies that there is enough energy off the coasts and more recently on an NPR segment in the midwest to satisfy the world’s power needs. Here is a link:

    It makes me sick to see the world passing us wrt to renewable technology and deployment. The world has woken up about global warming. When will the majority of sheltered couch potato Americans?

  14. In response to worriers concerned about avian impact –
    I’ve been to Nysted & Horns Rev in Denmark & looked at their avian radar studies.
    The turbines do NOT kill birds.
    They ARE seen by mollusks as artificial reefs & attract fish.
    They DO attract therefore, fisherman.
    They DO attract day sailors from Rostock.
    They DO attract tourists.
    They DO attract home buyers.
    They DO enhance the local economy.
    Would you like to hear more ?
    If you have questions feel free to write me at

  15. Leaving Bangalore airport at 2 am, looking out the window, gazing down at a vast city (third largest in India), looking at miles and miles and miles of lights, streetlights, houses, offices, and having sat through one, two, three rolling blackouts per day and you have to wonder — where is the power coming from to fuel all that growth? Providing what is arguably the fundamental foundation for economic growth and modernization? Look at what electrification did for Egypt in the 1960s (hydroelectric) — literacy rates went up, birth rates went down.

    Sure, we’re about to brown out and slip behind the rest of the world in terms of our essential infrastructure — our power grid, our transportatation systems are aging and need to be refreshed and expanded. What will the future say of our efforts to modernize and expand?

    The wind farm may not make a twenty perfect difference as it has in Denmark, but how to get to 20 without starting with 1? Even half a percent?

  16. Get the wind driven generators out of the salt water them into the flat roof -tops of Metro Boston buildings , for easy transmission to the end users and the NE grid ..easy maintenance …reduce state costs for MBTA comuter energy to State Metro parking and recharge for electric autos….low cost bridge and highway lighting ..reduced polution ..all in local control..compatible with and enhancing FEMA diaster protection plans as backup ..for Metro population currently served by other energy providers presently using fossil fuels ..

    Lease roof-top sites with RE tax incentives..or energy swap to owners..
    Support our existing economy..

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