Here’s a rather interesting comparison of an offshore North Carolina natural gas development, the Manteo Prospect, to the energy equivalent of a proposed offshore wind farm project in Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts called Cape Wind.
A number of items stand out:
- Manteo would consist of one surface platform tied to multiple subsea wells; Cape Wind would require 7,700 turbines and 59 electricity service platforms (to transfer the electricity to shore) to produce the same annual amount of energy.
- Manteo would take up 1.2 acres, Cape Wind would take up 944,000 acres.
Now, let’s assume for a moment that we’re ok with the substantially larger size–and cost–of the wind farm, because it would get us closer to the popular goal of cleaner energy.
That still leaves some questions:
If part of being “green” is protecting our enjoyment of nature’s beauty–why is it acceptable for Cape Wind’s 7,700 wind turbines to be close enough to “clutter up” our view of the shore line, while oil and gas platforms have to be far out in the sea? Also, part of the problem with cleaning up the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was its deep water location; it’s much harder getting to all of it.
Both natural gas and wind energy production involve the use of oil. Assuming complete destruction, Manteo would spill 10,795 barrels of oil, while Cape Wind would spill 98,058 barrels. Is the risk of a wind farm oil spill so much lower that the potential for a much larger spill is more acceptable? Do the benefits of wind energy outweigh the risk of a larger spill?
Cleaner and renewable energy sounds great for a variety of very important reasons. But to what extent–if at all–does that justify cutting green energy projects more “slack”?