(photo courtesy of Cape Wind – link in test below)
Cape Wind and Associates proposes to build a 130 –turbine, 420MW wind farm in the shallow waters of Nantucket Sound. (http://www.capewind.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=24&page=1 )
There are a number of offshore wind projects in various stages of proposal development and permitting, but this project is the furthest along. If it is permitted it will be the first offshore wind farm to begin construction in the United States. The arduous permitting process began in 2001 and the project received a mostly favorable Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) last year.(http://www.mms.gov/federalregister/PDFs/NoticeofAvailabilityoffinalEISfortheproposedCapeWindEnergyProject.pdf ) However, the project has not been approved; it faces one last hurdle.
The remaining issue is concern about the “adverse visual effects to 29 properties evaluated as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places” [FEIS Federal Register notice link above]. Since the FEIS was published, the National Park Service has determined that these properties are eligible for inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places, which prompted the Minerals Management Service to open a public comment period.( http://www.mms.gov/ooc/press/2010/press0122.htm ) The public comment period ended on Friday and Department of Interior Secretary Salazar hopes to reach a final decision about the project in April, according to the Cape Wind website (linked to above).
The issue of aesthetic impacts is not new to offshore wind projects. According to Cape Wind’s website the issue of visual impacts was the central point of opposition to a 1995 project in Denmark because citizens thought the turbines would disturb the coast and cause the coastal property values to fall. That project was built and those fears have turned out to be unfounded. (http://www.capewind.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=9&page=1 ). Also, their website shows several simulations of what the project would look like from nearby shorelines and states that the project would appear one-half inch above the horizon from the closest beach. (Click the previous link to see them.)
As a society we are going to have to decide how we want our future to be shaped and then move in that direction. I know such things never will be unanimous, but if we want renewable power then people are going to have to consider looking at things like distant wind turbines that appear an inch or less above the horizon. Is this is too much of a sacrifice for clean, renewable wind power which is more continuous that onshore wind and naturally matches up with times of peak demand? My conclusion: I think this is a reasonable trade-off.