Two months after they landed at New Bedford, Mass., the tower sections for planned onshore wind turbines still sit in the yard at the Marine Commerce Terminal, bottled up while local officials in nearby towns debate how to move them by road.
New Bedford and Massachusetts were counting on the massive Cape Wind offshore project when $113 million in taxpayer money was invested in the terminal. While the Nantucket Sound project stalled, wind power backers got some hope when turbine components from Gamsea of Spain landed at the port, bound for a wind power site on a cranberry farm in Plymouth, Mass.
But town officials in neighboring Bourne will determine how the massive turbine components can be maneuvered along narrow, historic roads on the way to Plymouth. Plus, they want a say in how the windmills might affect homes in their town, which has its own rules about wind power.
Enthusiasm for wind power among industry boosters and environmental groups is running up against the hard reality of siting any new industrial use. Deepwater Wind had success with locating its 30-megawatt pilot project in Rhode Island state waters, just off Block Island, by involving many stakeholders early on. Would it have worked on the other side of Narraganset Bay, in sight of Newport’s historic mansions? Probably not.
A turbine in Siemens’ London array. Siemens photo.Ireland is close to getting 20% of its electrical generation from a big commitment to onshore wind. But as more turbines sprout on the lush green landscape, a backlash is brewing, with political pressure to require wider setbacks between windmills and homes – a move that could seriously threaten the government’s renewable energy goals.
The answer, some say, is to go to sea with more turbine installations. But in a rare setback for wind power in the United Kingdom, the government this month rejected a proposed 120-turbine array at Navitus Bay off England’s southern coast – a decision to protect the status of the nation’s only United Nations-recognized World Heritage site.
Protecting a natural seascape motivated many critics of the Cape Wind project. On Monday, the Obama administration announced its intention to get more federal and state agencies involved in siting decisions, and produce a “regional road map” for large-scale wind development in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. It will be, the White House said, “a cooperative path to develop offshore wind at the large-scale level of deployment needed to achieve economies of scale and establish a regional supply chain with high-quality local jobs.”