Overwhelming Support May Not Be Enough for Offshore Wind

Guest Blog | October 14, 2011 | Energy Policy, Wind
Marylanders like offshore wind - but is that enough?
Marylanders like offshore wind - but is that enough?

This week, Simon Mahan attended the American Wind Energy Association/Offshore Wind Development Coalition’s conference on offshore wind energy in Baltimore, Md. This is the second of a series of three blogs from the conference. Read the previous post: Southern Jobs for Offshore Wind Energy.

I attended the American Wind Energy Association/Offshore Wind Development Coalition’s Offshore Wind Expo this week. Some 1,500 people gathered in the Charm City to learn more about, and mostly promote, offshore wind energy. Two polls were released during the conference. One poll, by the National Wildlife Federation and the Offshore Wind Development Coalition found that 62% of Marylanders are excited about offshore wind, even if they have to pay $2 more per month to support this fledgling industry. The other poll was commissioned by the Atlantic Wind Connection – you know, the offshore wind backbone company that’s partly funded by Google. That poll showed a whopping 68% of Marylanders want offshore wind, even if it costs more.

But believe it or not, those numbers may be more worrisome than at first glance.

Cape Wind, the nation’s first proposed offshore wind farm (off Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts), has not yet been built. The project was initially proposed in 2001, and has undergone a decade of lawsuits, permit and regulatory battles, and there still seems to be little end in sight. Cape Wind has astronomical public support (some would say “wicked support”) in the Old Bay State. Approximately 87% of residents in Massachusetts want Cape Wind built. The remaining 13% seem hell-bent on stopping the project. At the conference, a new documentary (“Cape Spin”) was screened that highlighted the trials and tribulations of the Cape Wind project. Far from being a slam-dunk case for Cape Wind, the documentary does a good job at being fair and showing both sides of the story. Audra Parker, the director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, is adamantly opposed to the project, and she graciously attended the AWEA/OWDC conference to screen the movie that she was featured in. She’s a part of that 13%, and she’s very, very active.

Marylanders, take heed. If Cape Wind can’t get built with 87% of the public supporting it, polls in the mid-60’s ain’t gonna cut it. Especially when the powers-that-be opposing offshore wind includes the Koch Brothers. That’s right, the Tea-Party supporting, climate change questioning, oil-loving Koch Brothers have launched a full-scale war against offshore wind. With those kinds of sharks in the water, we’re going to need a bigger boat.

Maryland Examines its Windy Shores
Examining Maryland's wind in the Charm City

Aside from the well-coordinated campaign being waged in Annapolis by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to promote offshore wind, and Clean Power Now in Massachusetts supporting Cape Wind, there is still a lot of work to be done for offshore wind energy at the federal level. Permits are still taking longer for offshore wind farms than coal-fired power plants, nuclear reactors and offshore oil rigs. The Department of Energy Loan Guarantee program has refused to dish out any support for the fledgling offshore wind industry, despite giving some $8 billion to build nuclear reactors, and having lost a $535 million bet on Solyndra. The House of Representatives has yet to introduce companion legislation to the Senate’s Incentivizing Offshore Wind Act (S. 1397) and no Southern Senators have co-sponsored that legislation. And at every turn, you can bet there’s a small, but vocal minority out there lobbying against offshore wind.

One way to help end some of these frustrations with offshore wind is to be prepared to discuss wind energy in a logical, well-researched manner. It just so happens that next week, October 18th at 2PM (ET), I’m hosting a webinar on Wind Energy Myths. I’ll be covering a good number of concerns and myths that I’ve heard over the years. Some are legitimate, and some are just looney – but we all have to know how to respond.

So, register for the webinar and help dispel some of the myths of wind energy.

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