Anti-Offshore Wind Slam Called Gust Of Hot Air

PolitiFact, the multiple-newspaper truth squad, has issued a “FALSE” verdict to an attack on offshore wind power’s dependability.

The fact checkers looked into and roundly dismissed as pure balderdash, unadulterated claptrap and utter poppycock a statement by James O’Neil, a former Rhode Island attorney general and opponent of Deepwater Wind’s ambitious plans for wind power development off the Rhode Island and Massachusetts coast.

offshore wind power

Scroby Sands Wind Farm, off Great Yarmouth, England. (image via Wikimedia Commons)

According to PolitiFact, O’Neil had gone on television and stated:

It’s not about the green movement. It’s about what I call the Green Bucks Movement. You have to consider the economic consequences of embarking on a mission which is going into the unknown. We do know a couple of things. We know that wind power is the most undependable form of renewable energy.

In assessing the remark, PolitiFact noted that wind power actually has a higher capacity factor than solar photovoltaic power. As for non-renewables, sure they have a dispatchability edge over wind (and solar), but as PolitiFact pointed out, plants that rely on fossil fuels do in fact break down and go offline. The University of Delaware’s Willett Kempton told PolitiFact that “generally, wind turbines are more reliable than thermal plants.”

O’Neil tried to suggest that wind power is “unpredictable,” but it’s really not, PolitiFact said: “We note that the National Weather Service predicts both the amount of cloud cover and the average sustained wind on an hourly basis six days in advance.” Plus, there’s much work and considerable progress ongoing to make the forecasts even better.

In the end, PolitiFact wrote: “O’Neil made an unequivocal and over-arching assertion, but provided no useful support for it. The most convincing evidence we found says he’s wrong.”

Deepwater Wind, the company whose project raised this squall, is at work on developing the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm, which it expects to have operating as the first offshore wind farm in the United States in 2015. But it has a far more ambitious plan bubbling along: to install up to 200 turbines off Rhode Island and Massachusetts, providing capacity of as much as 1,000 megawatts, with a transmission system linking Long Island to southeastern New England. The company recently won a federal lease auction for that project site, which it calls “the best site for offshore wind in the United States, bar none.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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