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Federal Government Approves Cape Cod Wind

But what, actually, is the big deal?

2 min read

The much-trumpeted approval by Washington of a proposed wind farm in the waters off Cape Cod has elicited an unusual amount of comment in the blogosphere and seems to have aroused expectations that the coast is now clear--please pardon the inevitable pun--for further wind farms all up and down the U.S. East Coast.. Immediately, according to Energy Central's Bill Opalka, the state of Delaware and the Long Island Power Authority praised the government's decision, obviously in hopes that their similar projects soon will be approved as well.

Evidently the thinking is that if a large wind farm can be built in the Kennedy family's front yard, then large wind farms can be built anywhere. I doubt that's so. In any intrinsically beautiful place where developers want to put such farms there is bound to be immense controversy. And how much offshore potential for wind is there in the United States? Not as much as in Denmark of the UK, relatively small countries surrounded by water--that's for sure. New England, with a relatively well balanced electricity generation portfolio, certainly doesn't need a whole lot of wind. Texas, despite its long Gulf Coast, doesn't need much either, as it has a huge on-shore wind resource. Californian won't want it, given its acute sensitivities about Pacific Coast energy development (despite its immense need for green electricity). That leaves the U.S. Southeast, admittedly one of the regions in which energy demand is growing the fastest.

Ironically, however, the Southeast seems to be the region least predisposed to renewable and green energy. It would just as soon go with nuclear, thank you. And is it wrong? Might it not be nicer, aesthetically, to tuck away some compact nuclear plants rather than build sprawling wind farms off Hilton Head, the Keys, or Sarasota?

I bow to nobody in my enthusiasm for wind, but in my opinion, the best potential for U.S. offshore wind is not the oceans but the Great Lakes. They have some of the nation's fastest winds, and they are immediately adjacent to the regions that burn coal most intensively, generation that needs urgently to be replaced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention save lives and improve health.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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