The Obama Administration has given the go ahead for a 468Mw wind farm in Nantucket Sound, off the coast of Massachusetts. This will be the US’s first offshore wind farm and has been delayed in the planning process for almost a decade. The $1 billion Cape Wind project will generate an average output of 182Mw, enough electricity for over 200,000 homes, at existing levels of electricity use.
The scheme took so long to get planning permission due to strong opposition from Native American tribes and influential residents, including the late Edward Kennedy. Like Obama himself, Kennedy was very good, but not perfect. He opposed the wind farm on visual and wildlife grounds. The visual issue is an aesthetic judgement – important, but a matter of individual taste. The potential impact on wildlife from wind farms is minute compared to the present and potential future impact of a changing climate. Offshore wind farms will help America reduce oil use, as surface transport can increasingly run on electricity. Even without taking climate change into account, the impact of oil on wildlife (and indeed on people) is dramatically demonstrated by the tragic events in the Gulf of Mexico. The Native American opposition was because wind farm will be close to sites sacred to them. These are legitimate grounds for objection and the Administration has decided that the wind farm will only be 130 turbines, rather than the requested 170.
The US government is also maintaining its momentum on energy efficiency. Earlier in April, Vice President Biden announced the award of $452 million of Recovery Act grants to 25 states, communities, and organisations to increase energy efficiency building retrofits. The Department of Energy expects the 25 projects to leverage around $2.8 billion from other sources over the next three years, leading to work on hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the US. This will create jobs immediately, improve the comfort of the inhabitants and reduce the energy costs of companies, as well as increasing US energy security and protecting the climate.