Report recommends coastal wind turbines

A report issued by the National Wildlife Federation has given new life to the idea that wind turbines should be installed along the coast of Connecticut.
A report issued by the National Wildlife Federation has given new life to the idea that wind turbines should be installed along the coast of Connecticut. Photo by Kirsten Schnackenberg.

Windy days on the Atlantic should be used for more than just sailing and flying kites, environmentalists say.

A report by the National Wildlife Federation released last week recommended the construction of offshore wind turbines along the coast of Connecticut and 13 other East Coast states. Currently, the United States does not have a single offshore wind turbine, but their construction could mean more jobs and cleaner energy for region, according to the report.

“The Atlantic Ocean is one of the best attainable renewable energy resources in the United States with the potential to create local jobs while reducing global warming pollution,” according to the report, co-authored by the NWF’s Catherina Bowes and Justin Allegro.

According to the report, over 1,300 gigawatts of energy generation potential have been identified off the Atlantic, and using even just a small part of this energy would generate hundreds of billions of dollars of economic activity, representing part of a solution for detrimental fossil fuel use and energy price volatility.

The NWF report estimates that Connecticut’s offshore wind resource is roughly 6.4 gigawatts within 50 nautical miles from the coast. This pales in comparison to New York’s 147.2 and North Carolina’s 297.5 gigawatt estimates, but could still mean new economic activity for the state.

The Sierra Club of Connecticut and the National Audubon Society both formally endorsed the NWF’s report. John Calandrelli, the program director for the Sierra Club of Connecticut, said that if this wind power were connected to the East Coast’s electrical grid, it could continuously power all the homes on the East Coast. Calandrelli added that the National Sierra Club has been in favor of wind turbines, including proposals for offshore wind turbines, for many years, on a sight-by-sight basis.

Despite the predicted economic benefits of wind turbine construction, concerns range from the aesthetic to the environmental, such as their potential to interrupt established bird migration patterns, according to Patrick Commins, the director of bird conservation at Audubon Connecticut.

“There have been several on the ground impacts and air collisions between birds and wind turbines. Large birds of prey that have the potential to be greatly affected by wind turbine construction, based on their migration patterns,” Commins said.

While Commins said that Audubon Connecticut does not take aesthetic worries into account, others feel they should be part of the debate about wind turbines. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, for example, formed in 2001 to oppose the Cape Wind Project, which would place wind turbines there. The group argues that the turbines would disrupt the area’s famed natural beauty.

Population density can also affect turbine construction. Calandrelli said heavily populated areas make turbine construction very difficult. In the Long Island Sound, for example, heavy boat traffic would restrict the areas suitable for turbine placement, he said.

Students asked about their opinions about the prospect of wind turbines appearing off the Connecticut coast had mixed opinions. Emily Quint-Hoover ’15, is in full support of them, arguing that even if they are an eyesore to some, the environmental benefits are too great to pass up.

Connecticut resident Nathaniel Zelinsky ’13 countered that “[wind turbines] are both unsightly and inefficient.”

Connecticut has several clean-energy initiatives in place already. The state requires utility companies to secure at least 27 percent of their electricity from clean-energy sources. Connecticut is also a participant in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and has committed to issuing a joint request for proposals for renewable power contracts by 2013, according to the NWF report.

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