Though America has numerous conventional inland wind farms, there are currently zero operational offshore farms. There are several proposed projects: the Cape Wind proposal off the coast of Massachusetts, as well as other schemes in the northeast and in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the timeline from proposal to a site becoming operational can be years, if it is developed at all.
Europe, on the other hand, seems to have cleared the first few hurdles associated with implementing a new form of energy generation. The first offshore turbine was installed in 1991, and the EU currently generates over 6000 MW for both residential and industrial use through offshore wind. Part of the recent increase in development is due to the European Renewable Energy Council’s bid to generate 20% of member state’s energy from renewables by 2020. In 2013, the expansion in offshore wind now amounts to 10% of Europe’s total wind power.
The most abstract of the culprits in such slow development in America could be the long-term regulatory processes that constructing an offshore wind farm entail. Approval and permit processes can delay any steps throughout the process, often taking months or years to complete. As such, one of the largest barriers to offshore wind development in the northeast – in particular the Cape Wind project – has been local opposition groups who delay the aforementioned approval processes. Although the northeast coast has already been assessed as one of the most lucrative areas for offshore wind energy development, its progress has been stalled by these groups for a myriad of reasons, some less than admirable.
Wind farm site leases have finally been sold in the locations near Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket Sound, and Cape Cod, areas which have classically been communities of wealth. This advance is much to the dismay of coastal property owners and residents who have been in opposition to the project since it was conceived in 2001. Collectively known as the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, figureheads include former presidential nominee Mitt Romney and billionaire oil heir William Koch.
Scotland has seen similar attempts to derail offshore wind farm progress due in part to local golf course owner Donald Trump, who claims that a development will “spoil the view.” In the past week, he has initiated a legal battle with the Scottish courts regarding the legality of such a project.
Under the guise of fears for the coastal ecosystem, local residents (or in most cases, seasonal residents) have expressed concern over environmental conservationism and so-called ‘visual pollution.’ Interesting to note is the population’s typical support of alternative energies, just not in the body of water in their sightline. This phenomenon, known as NIMBY-ism (Not In My BackYard), is historically one of the most monumental obstacles to alternative energy development, causing issues with inland wind farms due to irritating sound, and hydroelectric dams due to recreational debilitations. Apparently in the case of Martha’s Vineyard, it is especially so when the proposed site is in the backyard of millionaires.
Love the article, Megs. It seems like one good way around these kinds of barriers might be the development of alternative energy systems that are small enough to fit in or on a house but powerful enough to energize one.
Thanks Sam! Yes, this would be ideal. In fact this type of infrastructure (or lack thereof) is already in place with many non-renewable energy sources, such as people who have their own propane tanks in their backyard, or those in Appalachia who collect their own coal. It would come down to what a resident was able/willing to do and what a particular community thought was best for themselves. How libertarian of you!
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