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Friday, November 23, 2012

‘Cape Spin’ Film Points to Small-Scale Renewables

An excerpt from an article by KYLE HENCE/ecoRI News contributor. Read the entire article here.

“Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle” is a compelling, tragicomic and unbiased film expose of how the chaotic confluence of local, state and federal politics and the power of money can clash, cloud a vital issue, and prevent resolution and progress toward energy sustainability and a cleaner environment.
The film documents an protracted battle over a proposal to install 130 400-foot-high wind turbines in Nantucket Sound — an issue that drove a wedge amongst the wealthy, the Wampanoag tribe, environmentalists and countless quaint communities across Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Normally on the same side of issues, Greenpeace and the late Ted Kennedy were split by the Cape Wind proposal. At one dramatic point captured by the filmmakers, wind project proponent Greenpeace, operating gas-powered rubber boats, buzzes around a vintage schooner under sail. Bullhorns can be heard blaring protest against one of the country’s most respected environmentalists, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who was a guest onboard.
It is said beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This applies to those for and against the Cape Wind project. For Kennedy and many other opponents a horizon filled with turbines isn’t a pretty sight. Others find beauty in the turbines and point to the ugly alternative of mountaintop removal in the Appalachians, where mountaintops are literally removed to strip coal for fossil fuel-burning power plants.
The feature-length documentary film, five years in the making, is a poignant case study in the pitfalls and perils of developing and seeking approval for large-scale wind energy projects along the New England coastline. After 10 years, hundreds of hours of testimony from stakeholders, thousands of pages of federal reports, and tens of millions of dollars invested by opponents and proponents, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a President Obama appointee, announced government approval of the Cape Wind project on April 28, 2010. Still, the project is currently stalled due to pending litigation.
The good news: Rhode Island state government has benefited from the seemingly interminable trails and tribulations of our neighbor state and the vested stakeholders there. In applying lessons learned, the CRMC has advanced a painstaking review process that could soon result in siting the country’s first offshore wind farm, in the waters off Block Island.
“It sounds like you looked at the Cape Wind project and did exactly the opposite,” said Kirby, after hearing Fugate’s description of what’s been unfolding in Rhode Island since 2007.
Talking R.I. wind
Prior to the screening, Fugate spoke to ecoRI News about two Rhode Island-based wind projects begun under the Carcieri administration that present the state with the opportunity to take a leadership position nationally in the highly specialized development of a renewable energy source in abundance off the Rhode Island coast.
Fugate detailed two proposed wind energy projects off Block Island. The first scheduled to be built is a pilot project by Deepwater Wind utilizing five turbines with newer direct-drive technology, unlike the wind turbine that failed at Portsmouth High School earlier this year.
A second project farther offshore in deeper water would feature about 100 comparable turbines. A comprehensive and fully inclusive stakeholder process led by McCann and Fugate has produced real results with minimal controversy, in stark contrast to the Cape Wind venture.
Local fisheries, the state’s cultural heritage, recreational needs and the potential for renewable energy were all part of complex considerations during the three-year Ocean SAMP process.
Since the election, state governors, representing both parties, have come together to call on legislators to renew wind tax credits, which presidential candidate Mitt Romney had threatened to cut.
A third option
Before the “Cape Spin” credits roll, the filmmakers drive home a strong message that points to a renewable energy revolution. There is a “third way” beyond the myriad conflicts the film depicts: taking responsibility at the local level with smaller-scale wind turbine installations developed by town, schools, farmers, businesses and energy cooperatives. This third option, together with larger municipal and/or community-owned wind farms, the film suggests, would create a more resilient, decentralized energy network.
“The 50,000 people without power on Long Island speaks to the need for revamping our grid,” said Kirby, referring to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.