Tilted Windmills

Ted Kennedy was right


In April, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave a green light to Cape Wind, a wind farm off Cape Cod. This is the project that Ted Kennedy, whose family famously owns a "compound" overlooking the site, denounced in 2006 as a "special interest giveaway."

The late senator was on to something: The economics of the windmills don't add up. Cape Wind's 130 turbines combined have a maximum capacity of 468 megawatts. But the wind doesn't always blow. Based on a generous estimate of 40 percent capacity, Cape Wind's generation capacity would actually average about 184 megawatts.

Cost estimates for building Cape Wind run from $1 billion to $2 billion, meaning that its capital costs are roughly five times greater than those of a comparable natural gas plant and nearly double those of a modern coal-fired facility. Cape Wind's high capital costs will be offset by federal subsidies—giveaways, you might say—amounting to $300 million to $600 million.