Photo: Cape Wind
We applaud Google’s investment in an offshore wind project that intends to build a massive wind farm off the coast of New Jersey and Virginia.Offshore wind is plentiful, free, and infinitely renewable, and it’s pathetic that the United States hasn’t begun developing it until now.
We also applaud the manner in which Google is going into this business. Instead of developing the wind farm itself, the way it is doing with robot-driven cars, Google is investing in a third-party company that will actually do the development. This is a much better way for a company that is in the web app business to invest in businesses far outside its core competency.
But before you get excited about the prospect of a huge Google wind farm off the Atlantic Coast powering 2 million houses by, say, mid-next year, here’s a quick glimpse of what Google’s getting itself into.
The country’s first offshore wind project, Cape Wind, has finally gotten approval from the government to build its own, much smaller, wind farm in Nantucket Sound. This approval came after 10 years–10 YEARS–of fighting off one lawsuit and challenge after another.
The Cape Wind project was bitterly opposed by, well, by rich people who didn’t want little white windmills marring their ocean view. Cape Wind’s opponents trumped up one excuse after another for blocking the project–underwater Indian burial grounds, cost, environmental damage, fishing problems–and they succeeded in stonewalling it for a decade. Now, with only a lawsuit or two remaining before construction can begin, Cape Wind may finally become a reality. But only because the project’s founder, Jim Gordon, has waged a super-human battle (and spent tens of millions of dollars of his own company’s money) to bring it to fruition.
The wind farm Google is proposing to build off New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia is vastly larger than the one in Nantucket Sound. Like Cape Wind, however, it will be built off a coastline owned and occupied by some of the richest people on earth.
Based on the map Google included with its funding announcement, the wind farm may be built so far off the coast that rich people won’t be able to see the windmills from their porches. But if they can (and, perhaps, even if they can’t) brace yourselves for one hell of a fight.Also brace yourselves for massive opposition by coal, oil, and other fossil-fuel companies, who won’t want to see 2 million customers have another option.
None of this, of course, is reason not to try to build the project. Offshore wind is one of the most valuable resources we have, and we would be foolish not to develop it. But you can bet that a rich, powerful minority of folks either will only want it developed somewhere else–or won’t want it developed at all.
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