The Beginning of CPOW and offshore wind energy

Here in Massachusetts, Cape Wind has been a prominent topic of discussion for about ten years, and as the first state in the country to go through the permitting of an offshore wind farm, we renewable energy advocates have learned quite a bit about offshore wind turbines and what it means for our communities.

Even ten years after the first offshore wind farm project proposal in the US, we have not constructed a single wind turbine. However, Europe is speeding ahead with a combined 2,946 MW installed in 45 wind farms in nine European countries. Between 1,000 MW and 1,500 MW are expected to be installed during 2011. Currently there are 10 offshore wind farms under construction, totaling 3,000 MW and a further 19,000 MW have been fully permitted. With energy prices soaring, fossil fuel resources being rapidly depleted, and the health of our citizens on the decline due to air and water pollution, what are we waiting for?

Within the last few years, more and more communities are facing potential offshore wind farm development, and while these coastal towns have their differences, there are similar challenges and opportunities arising in each. The Civil Society Institute initiated a project to learn more about these coastal communities and see if there are ways in which collaborating could help public education and advocacy campaigns locally, regionally, and nationally. After just over a year of locating these potential host communities, contacting citizen supporters, and learning more about the social dynamics of their coasts, CSI felt it would be beneficial to get all these organizers in the same room to discuss common challenges and opportunities and see if there were benefits to collaboration between states.

The first meeting of these advocates determined that coordinating efforts could be extremely helpful for everyone. Those communities that had begun the process of learning about offshore wind energy and what the permitting process looks like wanted to share their experiences, and those states that were not quite to the point of having real projects proposed were eager to learn how to best get organizing before opposition inevitably pops up.

CPOW held its first meeting last month with 20 attendees representing 15 communities on the Atlantic coast and Great Lakes where offshore wind farm proposals are either moving through the permitting process or on the horizon. Our goal is to create collaboration among these groups to create a movement of informed, engaged, and supportive host communities for offshore renewable projects.