We Need it All

Ann Berwick is former chair of the Mass. Public Utilities Commission. She's been writing all over the place - the Globe, Commonwealth Mag, and now here -- talking about the preferable alternatives to gas pipeline expansion. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta


On November 10, the Boston Globe posted my op ed arguing that we need both large hydropower from Canada and offshore wind. The bottom line is: we need it all, including hydro, solar, and as much onshore wind, mostly from northern New England, as we can get.

Even before the announced closing of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant it was clear that we were falling behind on our greenhouse gas reduction requirements (note: requirements, not goals) under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act.  We can’t meet those requirements without every megawatt of renewable energy that we can possibly generate.

With his proposed bill on hydropower, the Governor thankfully focuses on clean power rather than natural gas to replace Pilgrim’s carbon-free energy.  That’s good as far as it goes, but my op ed argues that we shouldn’t overlook our own enormous domestic resource—offshore wind.

In response to my piece in the Globe, I received comments saying that I’m overly pessimistic about actually getting hydropower from Canada to southern New England.  I dearly hope my concerns are wrong.

But whether or not we can access Canadian hydro, we need offshore wind.  If the Administration’s apparent opposition is based on cost, it may be because of reliance on outdated information.  As I noted in the Globe article:

The price in the contract between National Grid and Cape Wind, without the 3.5 percent annual escalation factor, was $187 per megawatt hour. Thanks to advances in technology and experience building offshore wind farms, the target in Europe for projects under contract in 2020 is $113 per megawatt hour, which is approximately 40 percent less than the starting Cape Wind price.

Another benefit of offshore wind is that the federal Department of Interior has already awarded leases for three wind farms off our coast.

These wind farms are rated together in excess of 4,000 megawatts. (For comparison, Pilgrim is rated at 680 megawatts.) The Interior Department leases mean that these wind farm sites have already cleared a major hurdle….  The closest of these turbines to shore would be about 15 miles, barely visible in good weather (and more than double the distance of Cape Wind from shore).

And remarkably, Audra Parker of the Cape Wind’s nemesis, the Alliance to protect Nantucket Sound, has announced that these lease sites are superior to Cape Wind’s proposed location.

The coast of southern New England is one of the windiest places in the world.  And it’s windiest at the times of day when electricity use peaks, late in the afternoon and in the early evening.  Let’s use that wind to build an entire industry, and provide local jobs associated with the construction of wind farms and with the entire supply chain.

Here’s the link to my November 10 op ed:


And here are links to two other pieces that appeared in the Boston Globe this week on offshore wind:









2 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. All

    Here’s another level of reality about our energy use. Nationally, the USA “rejects” about 60% of the energy it produces. We get useful work, exergy, out of 40% or less of the energy we produce.

    Even though MA is the most energy efficient state in the nation and has been for the last few years, we can do a lot, lot more in energy efficiency and energy conservation if we think systematically.

    Concentrating only on energy sources rather than the efficiency of energy use from generation to the plug and socket in our homes is extremely myopic.

    In addition, there are a number of energy storage solutions (affordable batteries like Tesla’s PowerWall and thermal storage in freezer warehouses as the Dutch have been doing for over a decade or networked home hot water heaters as in the experiments now underway in Bornholm, Denmark and Rutland, VT) which are beginning to come into play that have the possibility of changing the way we think about our energy systems.

    Yes, we need new energy generation but, much more than that, we need to rethink our whole energy infrastructure to stop “rejecting” the majority of the energy we produce.

  2. Wind Farms are beautiful

    I will not accept the notion that a wind farm is an eyesore, no matter where it is. In the first place, the windmills are elegant and graceful in design and movement. Secondly, their very existence should equal the removal of an oil rig, a section of strip mining for coal, or a fossil fuel burning generator that are true eyesores. I chuckled when the residents of multi-million dollar, megawatt & BTU monster consuming vacation mansions on The Islands and mainland shore objected to the idea that these windmills would upset the quaint, natural environment that is Nantucket Sound.

    Not in their back yard, but okay in ours? For the record, my property borders a main electrical line complete with high voltage AC transmission towers and a 24″ natural gas pipeline that runs though my back yard.

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Wed 26 Apr 5:44 AM