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The Argument

Should the Baker administration support wind energy?

Yes

Judeth Van Hamm, a Hull resident and co-president of Sustainable South Shore, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable living

Judeth Van Hamm
Judeth Van Hammhandout

Large-scale wind can be the cheapest way to produce new energy. Wind also produces energy without carbon pollution and uses no water. Massachusetts is blessed with strong winds along its coasts and ridges. As a state, we should continue to do what we can to make full use of this valuable resource.

The average price of US wind power declined 58 percent fom 2009 to 2013, according to a recent report by the financial advisory firm, Lazard’s, which compares the combined cost of financing, building, and operating new power-generating plants. It found that the per-megawatt cost for wind turbines was $37-$81, compared with $72-$86 for utility-scale solar plants, $61-$127 for the most cost-effective natural gas-fired technology, and $66-$151 for coal-fired generation.

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The 1987 Wind Energy Resource Atlas shows Massachusetts has some of the best wind energy in the United States, particularly along and off the South Shore, South Coast, and Cape Cod and the Islands. Massachusetts’ wind goal of 2,000 megawatts by 2020 assumes that offshore wind would comprise about 75 percent of this goal.

Our state actively supports wind and solar energy by establishing Renewable Portfolio Standards. Utilities can meet those standards by producing their own renewable energy or by purchasing renewable energy certificates from producers.

Massachusetts has experienced one of the fastest wind-energy growth rates in the nation, going from just 3 megawatts in 2007 to more than 100 megawatts in 2013. Wind energy fulfilled 86 percent of the Renewable Portfolio Standards requirements through 2011.

I live in Hull. I have seen the low-lying parts of our town flooded by the 1978 Blizzard. The online coastal maps posted by Climate Central, an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching changing climate and its impact, show these low-lying lands having a 100 percent chance of being flooded again by 2050 unless we address climate change. I hope Hull’s two existing Vestas wind turbines could be joined by a new larger offshore turbine made by the same Danish firm that has been shown to produce enough power to serve 7,500 homes when installed at sea. With that, we could help stabilize climate and sea levels.

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No

Joanne Levesque, a member of the Duxbury Wind Advisory Committee

Joanne Levesque
Joanne Levesquehandout

Our state’s energy policy should never sacrifice the rights of private property owners or promote public harm. Current support for wind power projects is premised on allowing harm to our neighbors. Violation of the law is not how a civil society should adopt solutions to climate-change challenges.

I strongly support Governor Charlie Baker’s commitments to reducing carbon emissions while working to ensure Massachusetts has access to reliable and affordable sources of energy. Solar, natural gas, hydroelectric generation, and energy-efficiency efforts need to be part of the solution.

The Baker administration should immediately do what 44 Massachusetts cities and towns have done in the past 10 years -- that is to deny the construction of new land-based wind projects. The new administration should also do what Falmouth has been forced to do by a Barnstable Superior Court judge who ruled on the evidence: reduce the operational hours of existing turbines to protect their neighbors from further harm.

Industrial wind turbines:

- adversely impact the health of many adjacent neighbors;

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- kill bats and birds;

- reduce adjacent property values;

- disturb valuable eco-systems and watersheds;

- are an unreliable energy source;

- produce relatively little of our energy needs; and

- make virtually no economic sense.

Consider that:

- Existing turbines are too close to homes. Wind turbines in Fairhaven, Falmouth, Kingston, and in the Berkshires (Hoosac Wind) have all been documented to violate Massachusetts air-pollution regulations by way of excessive noise.

- The Hoosac Wind project is the largest and most expensive wind project in Massachusetts ($23 million in federal subsidies alone), yet in 2013 it produced only a fraction of the total amount of the state’s electric power needs.

- Falmouth is running a deficit on its two turbines.

- Princeton has lost more than $1.9 million since 2009 on its two turbines, and the town’s electric rates are among the highest in the Commonwealth.

My conclusion:

My sincere hope is that Governor Baker will discontinue support for wind energy based on sound scientific and economic reasoning and a respect for the rule of law and our protective regulations.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.