After months of staunch resistance, it appears that NStar has been persuaded to buy power from Cape Wind after all. Cape Cod Times reports on yesterday’s announcement:
Under the deal, NStar will enter a 15-year contract to buy 27.5 percent of the power generated by 130 wind turbines that Cape Wind Associates LLC plans to build in Nantucket Sound. If Cape Wind is not in operation by 2016, NStar will buy an equal amount of energy from another new, renewable energy source, Patrick said.
National Grid has already agreed to be buy half of Cape Wind’s power for 18.7 cents per kilowatt-hour.
While the exact details of the deal between Cape Wind and NStar have yet to be ironed out, it is expected to be almost identical to the pact with National Grid.
The deal was negotiated as part of the merger – now conditionally accepted by Massachusetts officials – between NStar and Northeast Utilities. Continue reading →
The organization that oversees the New England electricity market has decided not to allow Cape Wind to participate in an electricity auction for 2015-2016, saying that it is “unlikely” the project will be up and running by then. Here’s more from Sean Corcoran’s Cape Wind Blog:
The ISO looked at a variety of criteria to determine if a generator could auction off power in the 2015-2016 period, Blomberg said, including whether it had all its necessary permits, whether it could be properly connected to the grid, and whether financing was in place, among other factors. The Cape Wind project was one of 37 potential electricity generators that were not accepted for the auction.
Cape Wind’s strongest opponent, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, says the decision confirms the infeasibility of the project. But Cape Wind spokesperson, Mark Rodgers, “respectfully disagreed,” saying once again that they plan to begin construction by late 2012 or early 2013.
The debate over what to do with two town-owned turbines in Falmouth, MA is far from over. But, with an agreement to turn off Wind 1 indefinitely and run a two-month trial of Wind 2, things have hit a bit of a lull. Meanwhile, the situations in two other communities in the region are really starting to heat up.
What’s going on in Fairhaven is particularly interesting. At the most recent town meeting regarding a proposal to erect two large turbines at the wastewater treatment plant (if that sounds familiar, it’s exactly what Falmouth did), the town’s Board of Health requested an official legal ruling on what its actual powers are in this situation. Falmouth’s Board of Health has also struggled with its role in the wind turbine debate, so it will be interesting to see whether such a ruling will reverberate back toward Falmouth.
The relative paucity of scientific data regarding the health impacts of wind turbines has also been a sticking point in Falmouth. In an attempt to address some of the gaps, a Falmouth resident commissioned a study by two noise consultants. That report has just been released, and also featured prominently in the SouthCoastToday.com article on the Fairhaven proposal. A copy of the report is sitting on my desktop, so details will be forthcoming. I don’t expect it to rock the boat in Falmouth, where heavy emphasis has been placed on peer-reviewed science (i.e. studies that have been scrutinized by other scientists and published in scientific journals). But the SouthCoastToday coverage suggests it may get more traction in Fairhaven.
On a different note, Nantucket residents are also gearing up to fight a smaller (900 kilowatt) turbine intended to power the island’s solid waste facility. A group of residents opposed to the project have amassed a good chunk of change for legal fees, prompting town officials to reevaluate whether a wind turbine is really the right option.
A real Christmas tree doesn't have to be a cut-down Douglas fir. A potted rosemary plant can work, too.
My colleague, Cassandra Profita, at Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Ecotrope blog has some interesting twists to offer on the real-or-fake Christmas tree question. Her 10 shades of green focuses almost entirely on real trees, since fake trees have to be used for 10 to 20 years before their carbon footprint matches up. But Cassandra stresses that having a real tree for Christmas doesn’t have to mean cutting one down and killing it
Put it in a pot: Any small tree or shrub that you normally bring inside for winter could stand in for the traditional fir or spruce. My mom had a beloved Norfolk Island pine that she decorated for years. But I love Cassandra’s idea of using a big rosemary plant. I have friends who grow rosemary two or three feet tall around here (unfortunately, rosemary is not one of my gardening strengths), but any garden center worth its salt could provide you with a smaller version. Just imagine what the house would smell like!
Replant it: Instead of cutting a tree down, try pulling it out by the roots … then putting it back in the ground when you’re done with it. Cape Cod Tree Farm offers six varieties of live, replantable trees for Christmas. I just wonder how many times a tree can withstand that kind of treatment (i.e. could you pull it up again next year? and the year after?). I’ve got a good-sized yard, but it would fill up pretty quickly if I planted a Christmas tree every year.
Kill two birds: Well, not literally. But this was my favorite idea: pick an invasive species or two for your holiday decor. Cut it down, pull it out, whatever you’ve got to do. Then gussy it up for a week or two of holiday cheer before you send it to the compost pile. It’s a win-win proposition. Not sure what to go after? Here’s USDA’s top ten of non-native plants in Massachusetts. And if you’re short on ideas for how to use what you’ve found, you have to check out Cassandra’s story about a Portland (that’s Oregon, not Maine) man who’s been making Christmas trees out of invasive species for twelve years.
I’ve heard of airborne wind turbines, but this tethered wing is a new one on me. A real gee-whiz moment brought to you by KQED Quest (and shame on PBS for only showing it to viewers of “those stations not taking a pledge break.”)
Imagine a global experiment whose effects last hundreds to thousands of years, and in which each and every living being – indeed, even the oceans, continents, and atmosphere – are all subjects. Sounds kinda scary, right?
The scary part, according to Dr. Max Holmes – a senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center – is that we’re already doing that. It’s called climate change.
Holmes has spent years studying Arctic rivers, particularly how they’re changing due to both natural and human processes. With a boyish grin, he describes the excitement that he and his team feel each year when they return to find dramatic visible differences in their field sites – shorelines crumbling and eroding as permafrost melts. After all, they’re scientists who study change; seeing it happen before their very eyes is incredible! Then the father in him kicks in, and his face falls as he relives the moments (it happens again and again, he says) when he is forced to realize that the changes he’s watching aren’t part of some laboratory experiment. They are harbingers of changes happening across the globe as a result of rising greenhouse gas levels, and they are a reminder that things could get a lot worse than expected, a lot sooner than expected.
That’s because the Arctic’s frozen ground holds vast quantities of ancient carbon – twice what’s currently in the atmosphere. As global warming melts the permafrost, that carbon is released into the atmosphere in the form of methane – a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. That methane accelerates warming even more, leading to more melting, which leads to … you get the idea. It’s what scientists call a positive feedback loop. Melting permafrost is thought to be behind some of the most rapid and dramatic periods of warming in Earth’s past, and it has many scientists – like Holmes – very worried about the future.
That concern led Holmes to search for seriously outside-the-box ideas about how to slow global warming. And a budding relationship with Sergey Zimov, a Russian researcher that Holmes describes as passionate, if a bit eccentric, presented him with just such an idea. Continue reading →
1. A couple of readers have commented that I missed a crucial element in my post last week about the appearance – and disappearance – of signs calling for the shutdown of Falmouth’s town-owned wind turbines. Apparently, signs were stolen during town meeting.
From Terri Drummey:
The signs were stolen from all over town DURING the Falmouth town meeting. After DPW closed for the evening and before early morning.
Sue Hobart adds:
The signs were indeed picked up during town meeting … we saved what we could because yes… we will need them again … Plus we neighbors spent big bucks defending ourselves and nothing is over yet!
And, on a different note …
A large solar array is under construction next to the natural gas tank in Dorchester, MA.
2. While on his way into Boston this morning, my husband texted me (he was on the bus, not driving, btw) that he’d just seen a “big solar array next to the National Grid gas tank in Dorchester.” A quick web search reveals it’s one of six solar projects National Grid has built in Massachusetts; the other five are already online. When complete, the Dorchester array will cover more than 6 acres and is expected to produce some 1600 Megawatt hours of power. On the conspicuous and possibly ironic location directly adjacent to an icon of fossil fuel usage, the National Grid website says:
The Dorchester project will be located in a prominent location in Greater Boston, next to the famous multicolored liquefied natural gas tank (LNG). This was formerly a manufactured gas plant site, and as a result the land is contaminated and has limited reuse capability, making it ideal for a solar project. The panels will be easily seen from Route I-93, showing Boston as a city that is serious about its renewable energy goals. This is the largest of our planned upcoming projects.
Got news from your neck of the woods? Send it my way!
New research casts new light on the idea of painting roofs white to reduce global warming ... but does it debunk it?
Last week, I posted a link to an article on Climate Central discussing a new study that suggested white roofs – long touted as an easy, inexpensive way to reduce warming, particularly in cities – might actually make global warming worse:
Here’s why: the sunlight that bounces off white roofs doesn’t all fly out into space. A lot of it is absorbed by particles of soot and other dark-colored pollutants that float around in the atmosphere (those same particles are already responsible for a good portion of global warming). The particles heat up, just like your house would have, and the net result is a warmer atmosphere. You house might be cooler, but it would be at the expense of heating the planet.
Nobody can or should be trying to defend a single-source solution to our energy challenges. We’ll need a mix of clean alternatives to meet demands sustainably.
Even if an independent third party were to do an analysis of wind energy potential (the very thing I’d been saying I’d like to see), it would likely face the “wrath and scrutiny of competing stakeholders” – wind, solar, nuclear, etc.
To that last point, WindSector suggested this amusing video about the need for greater cooperation among clean energy sectors.
I can’t help but point out that natural gas is, in fact, a fossil fuel – one whose risks and merits are very much up for debate. But the points about the need for diversity and cooperation are well taken.