Op-Ed: Wind energy can address our greatest threat

Source: By Dan Wolf, Cape Cod Times • Posted: Friday, May 18, 2018

When I first ran for office, I proposed something that seemed out of reach: the Cape and Islands as a future net exporter of energy. Though my time in the state Senate ended before that goal could be realized, in 2016 we passed the Energy Diversity Act, mandating that our power providers incorporate offshore wind into our energy mix. Since Massachusetts has the best offshore wind resources in the country, wind power is a natural fit.

In the coming weeks our power companies will announce the procurement of up to 800 megawatts of clean offshore wind electricity. Among three companies competing for offshore wind contracts, Vineyard Wind is proposing to bring its electricity to the shores of Cape Cod from an area 30 miles south of the Cape. If Vineyard Wind is selected, the project could supply clean energy to more than 400,000 homes, and the Cape and Islands could produce more energy than we consume for the first time since our region harnessed our strong winds to power the whaling industry.

Thanks in part to decades of European experience, offshore wind has become cost-effective and predictable. Wind energy will help stabilize our electricity rates in the long term by reducing our reliance on natural gas, which experiences steep price increases during frigid (and windy) winter months. Having a local power source connected to the Cape will also help address our well-known reliability issues.

Offshore wind also brings a rare economic opportunity: to cement the Bay State as a global leader in renewable energy, with Southeastern Massachusetts as a hub of offshore wind development. All three offshore wind proposals offer economic benefits, and Vineyard Wind has pledged to commit millions on regional workforce and supply-chain development, providing an excellent model for building and sustaining a local offshore wind industry.

Further along than any other such project in the nation, Vineyard Wind has already begun the permitting process; it is slated to begin construction late next year, and become operational by 2021. Its position offers us a chance to become the East Coast’s offshore wind development hub, ahead of several other East Coast states competing for the position.

Of course, our urgent pursuit of renewable energy is not just economic: Our region faces extreme risks from the rising tides and chaotic weather brought on by climate change, which we’ve experienced firsthand recently. Intense warming of the North Atlantic threatens the health of our most precious species, from valuable fisheries to endangered marine mammals. Climate change is a global problem, but it is also our problem, and we must commit to local efforts to address it.

Massachusetts is already a clean-energy leader as a result of our robust support for renewables and efficiency initiatives. At Cape Air, our commitment to environmental sustainability includes a solar array atop our Barnstable Municipal Airport headquarters that fully supplies the company’s electricity needs. New tuned injector fuel nozzles and fuel gauges installed in all Cessna 402 aircraft are expected to reduce Cape Air’s fuel burn, and the fuel savings will reduce carbon output by 1,003 tons per year (the equivalent of taking 188 cars off the road).

Offshore wind is our chance to combine our maritime traditions and our history of environmental stewardship to create thousands of well-paying jobs, while becoming a global leader in renewable energy. But the only way to capture the economic and environmental benefits associated with offshore wind is to work aggressively to permit and build offshore wind in Massachusetts.

Let’s work together to create a new local industry — one that will address the greatest threat to our region and the planet.

— Dan Wolf, chief executive officer and founder of Cape Air, served as state senator for the Cape an