Jan 23, 2009

First Offshore Wind Farm is Meeting Stiff Resistance

Wall Street Journal -- The fate of what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm is calling attention to the political obstacles facing renewable power, despite President-elect Barack Obama's determination to greatly expand its use.
Supporters say it will deliver annual reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road. Opponents warn it will industrialize Nantucket Sound, a popular summer playground, and interfere with fishing and recreation. Some time before Mr. Obama is inaugurated Jan. 20, the Bush administration is expected to publish a review of the expected environmental impact of the project, resolving the last major regulatory hurdle blocking the project in Washington.
The conflict over Cape Wind illustrates a persistent problem for renewable power. Policy makers and environmentalists love the idea of generating clean power from the sun, wind, water and geothermal sources to displace imported oil. But at the local level, there is often opposition to the hardware needed to make renewable power work: big windmills, acres of solar panels and large-scale transmission lines.
Resolving such conflicts will be critical if Mr. Obama's administration is to achieve his goal of generating at least 25% of the nation's electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Wind, solar and geothermal energy currently account for less than 1% of U.S. electricity supply.
The Energy Department concluded last year that wind energy could generate 20% of the nation's electricity by 2030. But that would happen only if a "superhighway" transmission system is created to carry wind power from sparsely populated areas to states and cities that need the energy.
"You can build wind farms all day, but unless you have eminent domain to allow you to build a 1,000-mile transmission line, it won't work," says James Rogers, chief executive of North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp.,