Public Supports Investing in Wind Turbine Technology, but Not in My Backyard

Over the last couple of weeks the forecast for wind has been decidedly mixed.  On the one hand, a Vermont Public Service Board (VPSB) hearing officer recommended on March 10 that state regulators reject a proposed 6-MW wind energy project in East Haven, Vermont.  The project, which has been under development since 2001, would install wind turbines along a ridgeline that sits on an abandoned radar base surrounded by environmentally protected lands on East Mountain in the state's rural Northeast Kingdom area.  Opponents of the East Haven project object to how it will affect the scenic views in the area.  While the hearing officer's recommendation can be rejected, in most cases the VPSB does not reject a hearing officer's recommendation.  The decision highlights the difficulty of siting wind projects in New England due to persistent NIMBY opposition, despite the overall public and political support for non-polluting energy sources.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado announced on March 9 that it had entered into a $27 million contract with General Electric to develop a new offshore wind power system over the next several years.  In developing the project, DOE and GE hope to design, construct, and test a multi-megawatt wind turbine that would produce electricity at significantly lower costs than achievable with existing technology.  The investment was trumpeted as a means of reducing U.S. reliance on foreign energy resources and promoting cleaner technology under the Administration's Advanced Energy Initiative.  While the federal and private investment in offshore wind energy may help advance some offshore generating technologies, it is unlikely to overcome the opposition of coastal real-estate owners who have been able to stymie offshore wind projects such as the Cape Wind project near tony Nantucket, Massachusetts.