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Is a Clean Energy Future for Cape Cod Blowing in the Wind?

Off-shore wind energy has taken off in Europe, where thousands of huge wind turbines scattered up and down the coast now generate many megawatts of of energy for the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and the British Isles.

Here in the U.S., not so much.

In fact, the first off-shore wind farm in the country – four turbines near Block Island in Rhode Island – just powered up this past December. But there are signs that much more is to come. The U.S. government has leased a large area about 20 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard to a Danish company, DONG Energy, which plans to have 40-50 large turbines up and running by the early 2020s. Several other companies also hold leases for ocean tracts in the same general area, and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently received bids for our Atlantic waters from subsidiaries of companies in Germany and Norway with strong track records in off-shore wind farm development. It appears that European companies are viewing the U.S. Atlantic coast as an attractive market for wind energy development and production.

Massachusetts has set ambitious goals for reduction of CO2 emissions, calling for a 25% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020, just three years from now, and an 80% reduction by mid-century. These expectations come as coal-fired power plants in the state are being shuttered and the nuclear power plant in Plymouth is due to be decommissioned just two years from now. Last year Governor Baker proposed and the state legislature passed a law requiring Massachusetts utilities to sign long-term contracts for at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power from companies with leases at least 10 miles offshore. These goals and policies plus high energy demand and the loss of fossil fuel alternatives make our off-shore continental shelf fertile ground for wind energy companies.

The Obama administration was enthusiastic about the clean energy potential in off-shore wind. So far the signals from President Trump have not been positive. In the meantime our Commonwealth is pushing forward assertively. As the new wind farms come on line it is important that Cape Codders support these efforts and garner their share of the clean energy bounty.