Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Cape Wind debacle

Cape Wind demonstrates that wind and solar are not the answer to our energy Jones.

The Obama administration recently approved America’s first off-shore wind farm, dubbed Cape Wind, off the coast of Cape Cod. This comes after 10 years of mandatory study, review and battling opposition groups. But opponents vow to continue to fight on grounds ranging from historic and cultural preservation to aesthetics, to safety. Similar arguments have held up solar and wind projects across the country.

It’s not just a matter of time. These delays, court battles, mandatory studies and public relations battles cost tens of millions of dollars which must be recovered somehow. If and when a project actually gets done, the cost will have to be built in to utility bills.

Wind and solar farms take up a lot of square miles. It appears there simply is not enough non-contested area on land or sea to even put a dent in our energy needs. Even individuals installing solar panels on their homes, must do battle with neighbors who want to plant or keep their trees.

The Cape Wind project would be 130 giant wind turbines, each 400 feet tall, and would hopefully provide 75% of the power requirements for Cape Cod. Now imagine what it would take to provide even 10% of the power requirements for Manhattan. Solar isn’t any more practical. If you wanted to use solar farms to supply the power needs for New York City, you’d have to cover most of upstate NY with solar panels. It’s just not going to happen.

Everyone likes the warm, fuzzy feeling they get when they talk about “clean” energy, but few want the means of production located anywhere near them. That being the case, perhaps we should stop throwing money down these black holes and look for solutions that have a snowballs chance of seeing the light of day. There are other options. Perhaps the most promising is algae to fuel. Algae farms can be located anywhere that has access to sunlight and carbon dioxide. You don’t even need clean water. Yet for some reason, approaches that are doomed to fail seem to garner all the taxpayer “investment” dollars. This is not an energy policy. It’s a bureaucrat and attorney jobs program.