2010 is shaping up as a milestone year for the wind power industry, which continues to see an abundance of new capacity added in multiple states. Last week the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released its annual report showing that the domestic wind energy industry installed more than 10,000 megawatts in 2009, about the same amount of generating capacity you’d get from three large nuclear power plants, and enough to power 2.4 million homes. Some 36 states now have utility scale wind power projects and all 50 states have jobs in the wind power sector, the report found.
But you’re just as likely to be hearing about the setbacks that the industry has suffered, most notably the latest blow to the long-contested Cape Wind project off Massachusetts, which an advisory council on historic preservation recommended not be approved.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has yet to make a decision on whether to approve Cape Wind, and even that final ruling is sure to be contested in lawsuits that could drag on for years. But the bigger point here is that at a time of unprecedented interest in renewable energy, there is still massive opposition to a renewable energy project that ought to be a no-brainer: a windy site located close to dense population centers.
Nor is Cape Wind unique. In Rhode Island, plans for a smaller wind farm off Block Island also hit a roadblock recently.
Ditto the windy waters off Lake Michigan, where talks for a large-scale wind project have been met with considerable opposition.
To be sure, each of these projects has its own set of complex environmental issues and cost-benefit analyses to address. Yet, so many of these debates continue to center on the visual impact and whether said wind farm would be an eyesore.
Earlier this year, we explained why offshore wind plants are generally considered the most effective way to quickly ramp up supply.
As it stands, the United States still has no offshore wind farms, while much of the rest of the world from Europe and China embraces the image of windmills on the horizon as a symbol of strength and resourcefulness.