Or at least a two-part television miniseries starring Ed Begley Jr. On the Discovery Channel.
The effort to build an offshore wind farm – it would be the US’s first – has thus far been a roller coaster ride for advocates and opponents alike.
If that movie is ever made, this Jan. 18 will occupy a turning point in the story’s script, the day the jury levees its verdict before a rapt courtroom. Here and now, the date stands as a milestone in the life of the Cape Wind drama, marking the release of the farm’s final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The report is an exhaustive seal of approval of sorts, the final official analysis of how the wind project would likely affect its environment.
The federal Minerals Management Service assembled the report, an 800-page tome touching on every aspect of the wind farm – from expected effects on local economies and energy supply to its influence on bat and bird populations.
Adverse effects according to the report, would be mostly negligible or minor with a few moderate effects expected.
Gifted with an usually lengthy coastline, the United States has the potential to become a leader in ocean-based wind power generation. Yet it’s as if the country – and investors – have held their breath watching and waiting for the Cape Wind controversy to unfold.
It seems to have fallen to the planned wind farm to test the waters for such large-scale and ambitious renewable energy projects in the US, and Cape Wind has seldom found those seas calm.
Cape Cod reaches out eastward from Massachusetts like a weathered old sailor’s arm, bending and flexing upward until it finally ends in a little balled fist called Provincetown. Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are islands tucked just beneath that arm, due southwest and southeast respectively.
Nestled in the center of this protective triangle is the spot Cape Wind has planned for its 130 wind towers.
The turbines would be rated at 3.6 megawatts each, with a combined total power output of about 468 megawatts. Under average conditions, the farm could provide the Cape and its islands with about 75 percent of their electrical needs. That output is equivalent to about 200,000 homes.
But shorelines surrounding the farm site also happen to be among the most expensive ocean-front property in the northeast. Since Cape Wind was first proposed nearly eight years ago, groups have emerged to both oppose and lobby for its construction.
Opponents have had their say most vocally in the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, an organization formed to put the brakes on the wind farm.
Clean Power Now was founded by those on the other side of the opinion spectrum, and has worked to help make Cape Wind a reality. Both groups are funded through donations.
The Environmental Impact Statement’s release and its findings were cause for celebration or consternation, depending on which side one’s sympathies lie. A 30-day waiting period now must expire before the Minerals Management Service issues its final record of decision. This will state whether it has chosen to issue Cape Wind its lease for the proposed farm site.
The timing of the final EIS is near picture perfect, as though written for the drama of the big screen. The incoming Obama administration seems the perfect stage for the EIS’s release, in that the president-elect has said clean energy would be a major player in his economic recovery plan.
If this was indeed a work of fiction, the discerning critic would cry foul, trite, predictable. But in this case, life imitates art.
If ever there was fertile ground for this wind farm to take root, for a renewable energy renaissance, it seems this is it. Our tanking economy desperately needs a fresh, new – and renewable – breath of innovation, and a climate in crisis needs immediate relief from fossil-fueled consumption and growth.
Whether Cape Wind and the renewable-energy industry can overcome their obstacles is a decision that ultimately lies with us.
That ending has yet to be written.