Wind farms, with their rows of tall white poles topped withspinning turbines, all generating electricity, are abeautiful, calming sight to some people and a blight on thelandscape to others?especially when they’re placed in theocean, within sight of beachfront property.

Willett Kempton and Jeremy Firestone examined publicreaction to the Cape Cod Wind Project, the first offshorewind farm in the US, and found that public opinion isdivided over the project. The researchers uncovered some ofthe reasons for this.

The Cape Cod Wind Project was proposed in 2001 for NantucketSound. It will consist of 130 wind powered turbines, each 40stories tall. Together, they will generate enoughelectricity to power most of Cape Cod. The turbines willcover a 24-square-mile area of seafloor within view of theshoreline.

“In terms of the opposition, the most emotionally feltargument?is that it would intrude on a very special placeand the creatures that live there,” Kempton says. “Thereappears to be something special about the ocean, a feelingthat for many people underpins their opposition to the project.

“Some interviewees questioned the motives for building windfarms in the ocean versus on land, believing that it was away for a developer to save money on land purchases. But infact, it?s more expensive to build at sea, but the wind isstronger there, so the turbines are more effective. Othersopposed the project because they felt it was being built in”their territory.”

Those in favor of the project pointed to the non-pollutingbenefits of wind power compared to coal-burning and nuclearpower plants. Some mentioned successful wind-energy projectsin other countries, particularly in Europe. Other supportersfelt that the project would increase US energy independenceand security. Kempton says, “At the time of our interviewsin late 2003, US soldiers were engaged in Iraq, and thedestruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, wasstill on people’s minds.”

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