FAQs: Cape Wind and the Environment

Question: How would Cape Wind reduce air pollution and greenhouse gasses?

Answer: Wind farms like Cape Wind are clean because they produce electricity from the wind and do not produce any air pollution. Yet wind farms provide even greater environmental benefits because their operations reduce the amount of fossil fuel power that needs to be generated, thereby reducing the amount of pollution that goes into the air. Using the methodology Massachusetts State agencies use to estimate air pollution reductions from wind farms, Cape Wind would reduce by over a thousand tons per year air pollutants that harm human health. Cape Wind would also reduce about 734,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in New England, a greenhouse gas causing climate change.

Question: What about the gear oil and insulating oil that would be used for Cape Wind?

Answer: The U.S. Department of Interior has approved Cape Wind's oil spill prevention and recovery plans for the modest amount of gear and inslating oil that will be used at the facility. These oils will be far more secure than the millions of gallons of fuel that traverse Nantucket Sound every year because in the wind turbines and in the Electric Service Platform the oil will be in a triple containment system to protect against any spills. Cape Wind will reduce the amount of fossil fuels, including oil that is burned in New England to make electricity. Each year Cape Wind will generate as much electricity as it would take an oil burning power plant burning 113 million gallons of oil to produce.

Question: What about offshore wind farms and birds?

Answer: Studies of birds and offshore wind farms in Europe have found that there are very few bird collisions. Most birds have been observed by cameras and by radar to fly around the wind farms, and those birds flying through the wind farms have been observed flying through the open corridors between turbine rows. There has been more pre construction avian studies of Cape Wind than for any wind farm in the world, offshore or onshore. These studies have included trained ornithologists in airplanes and boats in transects over Nantucket Sound for visual observations as well as avian radar. In addition to all of the avian studies commissioned by Cape Wind, Mass Audubon seperately conducted their own avian studies in Nantucket Sound. Mass Audubon concluded Cape Wind would not have an adverse effect on birds and came out in support of Cape Wind.

Question: What about offshore wind and marine mammals?

Answer: Studies of offshore wind farms in Europe have not found any adverse impacts to marine mammals. Care will be taken during the construction phase of Cape Wind to ensure that there are no marine mammals present in the immediate vicinity during pile driving activities. Perhaps the biggest threat facing marine mammals generally is a steep decline in ocean plankton populations that are the base of the food chain that marine mammals depend upon. This plankton decline is a result of global warming brought on by fossil fueled greenhouse gas emissions that wind farms can help reduce.

Question: What about Cape Wind and fish and fishing?

Answer: Offshore wind farms foundations in European waters are covered with marine growth that attract fish, in Nantucket Sound some species are expected to become more numerous on Horseshoe Shoal such as cod, sea bass, and scup. No significant impacts are expected on fishing due to the spacing of the wind turbines, 6 to 9 football fields apart, buried electric cables that won’t interfere with fishing gear, and the relatively shallow depths where the wind turbines would be located that already preclude certain types of commercial fishing.

Question: What are the impacts to the shoal during construction?

Answer: Although there will be temporary impacts to the seabed during construction, Cape Wind will be using environmentally friendly construction techniques to minimize these impacts. The wind turbine foundations will be single monopoles, hollow steel pipes that will be driven into the seabed. Since the monopole foundations are filled with displaced sand, the construction methodology does not produce any excavated sediments in need of disposal. The electric cables associated with the wind farm will be buried a minimum of six feet below the seabed. The cables will be laid with a jet plow, a high-speed water jet that temporarily liquefies the area of the seabed where the cable is laid. This technique minimizes disruption to the seabed, with water opacity returning to normal within about 24 hours.

Question: Would Cape Wind use water or discharge any waste water?

Answer: No, unlike fossil fuel or nuclear power plants, Cape Wind would not consume any water or discharge any waste water.