Wind Farms in Nantucket Cape Term Paper

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(Kleekamp, 2005)

The agreement between all the countries at Kyoto had clearly specified that all countries were to cut down on their release of heat trapping gases by 5.2% from the levels that they had reached in 1990 by the period of 2008 to 2012. This is also subject to the condition that Australia and United States did not approve of the protocol through approval by their democratic authorities and China and India are not bound to observe it as they are developing countries. At the same time, it may be noted that China is trying to convert one tenths of its energy requirements come from renewable sources by 2020 according to their own plans, and has now reached a level of 37,000 megawatts of electricity generation from renewable resources. This country is now followed in that respect by Germany, United States, Spain and Japan. Thus in spite of all legal fine-tuning, it seems clear that all countries understand and appreciate the requirement of having less polluting energy resources. The situation in Asia is the most critical as it has to increase its power generation capacity at a time when the global oil prices are rising very sharply. Their power requirement is for rapid economic expansion which has to be met. This is understood by most of the countries, all over the world and they are trying to get 5 to 30% of their power requirement or electricity production before the end of 2012. This is also the time when the first phase of Kyoto Protocol on reducing emission of greenhouse gases ends. (Beck, 2005)

At the same time, the people of Cape Cod are certainly keen on shifting to a cleaner and greener future and they feel that this will require good policy at the town and county level, sustainable behavior at the individual level and the implementation of technologies which can provide energy to homes, businesses, municipal infrastructure and vehicles. They would like to reduce their energy demand and harness their own resources and thus lead the nation in economic growth and set and example to the nation. (What is Cape Cod's energy future?) This was the main subject matter of a conference held on September 22, but the question still remains whether this is really an attempt at development or just a flexing of economic muscles.

Problems with Nantucket

The difficulties that are seen in the development of wind energy are not on shore as these have been developing over a period of time. Out of the 47,300 megawatts that have been generated all over the world during last year, only 600 megawatts were generated offshore. The major part of the experimentation is going on in Denmark, where there are two projects which generate half of the world production. The slow development is being tracked by some organizations and one of the major organizations is BTM Consult ApS, which keeps track of the worldwide development. The slow growth of the offshore plants has been ascribed to financial uncertainty about the future and the delay due to regulations. Another important factor for the delay is the lack of a technology supplied by one of the leaders in worldwide technology. (Dennehy, 2005) If the power plant at Nantucket based on wind power is built, then the total generating capacity of the plant will be almost half of the capacity of the four plants based on oil that is being talked about. This is an interesting solution, and while it would not solve all problems of the New England area for power, yet it may be looked as a possible solution for a long-term view of the entire exercise of trying to supply enough power to all people as per their requirement. (Kleekamp, 2005)

Another argument that keeps coming up is that the wind farm, if developed at Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound in the coastal waters off Cape Cod would kill many thousands of birds every year. The entire base of the argument is based on the large number of birds that are killed in another wind farm location and that is in Altamont Pass, which is in California. The California-based wind farm has killed many thousands in the twenty years or so since they were first built. At the same time, it is invalid to stretch the arguments of the bird killings that take place in Altamont Pass to Nantucket. It is somewhat like having fault lines in one location which affects construction, and extending the same argument for stopping of construction in another separate area. The two sites are quite different and Nantucket Sound is in the coastal waters off Cape Cod, while Altamont Pass is a rolling stretch of dry grassland situated east of San Francisco. There are not very many similarities between the two places except that there are many thousands of turbines in Altamont Pass and there is a proposal to have 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound. There are also some basic differences between the two areas and while Altamont Pass provides for land-based wind turbines, the wind turbines for Nantucket Sound would be based on water. This would also be the first water-based wind turbines in United States. (Coleman, 2005)

There are also many other differences and the most important among them is that many of the wind turbines in Altamont Pass are very old by today's standards and thus also inefficient by today's standards. This is leading to their being replaced slowly by taller machines which have the blades at higher levels from the ground. Thus it is probably not fair to compare the two locations for wind turbines, and it may be more appropriate to compare the situation of Nantucket Sound with the offshore wind farms which exist in Europe. In June of the current year, the results of a six-year radar study of avian impacts from offshore wind turbines were published, and this was the first such study. The concerned researchers were Mark Desholm and Johnny Kahlert who based their study on the effects of 72 wind turbines being used in Nysted off Southern Denmark. Their study began in 1999 when the project for the wind farm was still being planned and the 360-foot high turbines were first operational in December 2003.

Thus there was a four-year time gap between the beginning of the research and the wind farm, and this permitted the research team to fully study the habits of the birds. According to the report, less than 1% of the ducks and geese are at any time in a position to get hit by the wind turbines. The birds become rapidly aware of the blades of the turbines and remain at greater distances from them during night and this reduces further their risks of getting hit. In their study it was seen that less than 1% of the birds ever got into a position where they were likely to be hit by the turbines. Of course like all other good research, there were certain limitation to the research which was pointed out by the researchers themselves - the data was based on the first year of operation of the wind power generation, boats were moving to the turbines for maintenance and this could have affected the behavior of the birds and the type of birds were eider ducks and geese which also could have some effects. (Coleman, 2005) Thus the problems wind turbines having a high effect on birds of the area does not seem likely.

The real reason for bird deaths

There have also been trips to the same wind farm near Nysted on boats. The physical visit confirmed that while there were a large number of birds at a distance away from the farm, there were very few birds close to the farm. Within the farm, even when birds were seen, they were seen to clearly avoid the turbines. The seafarers of the area said that they were not aware of any birds being killed by the turbines, and they feel that the turbines have become some sort of a beacon to the birds in the area. On the other hand, the United States Government Accountability Office report on September 19 urges federal officials to take a more direct and active role in situating farms in an area where there are also fewer chances of them being hit by the turbines. At the same time, the report also mentions that millions of birds are being killed by hitting buildings and towers, consumption of pesticides and attacks by feral and domestic cats. Even in the sea the birds face a high threat from heavy oil that is being carried in barges and that oil regularly spills off into the ocean and that result in the death of many terns, gulls and other birds. (Coleman, 2005)

In totality it may be said that the major cause for death of birds is the destruction…[continue]

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