Op-Ed: The promise of Cape Wind

Op-Ed: The promise of Cape Wind

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This winter found many of us trying to get inside from the cold, where the comforts of modern life awaited — warmth, lights, electronics, appliances, and a hot meal.

You may not have realized it, but the infrastructure that delivers energy to us, upon which all these comforts depend, was under great stress.

Massachusetts does not produce coal, oil or natural gas. We are at the end of the energy pipeline for all those fuels.  Over the past 30 years our region has shifted more of our energy use away from coal and oil toward natural gas.

Yet our demand for gas, both in the heating and electric sectors, has been increasing much faster than the supply of gas that pipelines deliver us. During this cold winter, we saw spot market prices for natural gas and electricity rise significantly. This not only made electricity generated by gas more expensive, it also meant that as the heating sector used more gas there was less available for power plants. There were times in this past, brutally cold January when our region’s electric grid manager, ISO-New England, needed to run old, inefficient and dirty “peaker” power units just to keep the lights on.

These cold periods that stress our energy infrastructure also tend to be quite windy. We have all seen the meteorologists on TV telling us about the “wind chill effect,” and winter is our windiest season. Massachusetts is not at the end of the wind pipeline. In elevated locations, along the shore and particularly offshore, we have our own vast supply of clean wind energy waiting to be tapped.

Over the past 13 years, our company has been developing America’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, on Horseshoe Shoal. During that time Cape Wind would have provided significant energy, economic, and environmental benefits to Massachusetts and beyond.

During a severe three-day cold snap in January, 2004, ISO New England contemplated the need for rolling blackouts because of the shortage of natural gas for electricity generation.  The U.S. Department of Energy studied the region’s energy vulnerability and noted that during the entire three-day period winds over Nantucket Sound were strong and, had it been built, Cape Wind would have been operating at full capacity during most of that period and provided significant electric reliability benefits.

This past winter, Cape Wind would have eased the stress on the natural gas and electric spot markets and reduced price spikes. Had Cape Wind been operating, National Grid and NSTAR would have also saved millions of dollars this winter under their contracts with us compared with relying upon spot markets. Over time, Cape Wind’s impact in reducing electricity spot market prices will be significant, more than $7 billion over the life of the project, according to a study by Charles River Associates. Wind power consistently reduces electric spot market prices wherever it has already been installed on a significant scale, such as in Europe or in parts of the U.S.

Offshore wind is also particularly valuable during a less windy season, summer. One might think of the “dog days of August” when temperatures are high but winds are calm. Yet offshore, it’s a different story, where the sea breeze kicks in during hot summer afternoons. In fact, we have found that during the highest summer electric demand hours, Cape Wind would double its average hourly electric production.

There is a lot of interest in the direct bill impacts for electricity consumers from Cape Wind.  The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (MDPU) carried out lengthy adjudicatory proceedings and heard from energy experts and project supporters and opponents alike. The MDPU concluded that Massachusetts residential and business electric consumers will see an increase in the range of one to two percent on their monthly electric bills attributable to National Grid and NSTAR’s power purchase from Cape Wind. As with every other energy technology, the cost of harnessing offshore wind will fall as it is further built out and greater economies of scale are achieved.

Those who scoff at the energy contribution that offshore wind can play ignore key facts.  Denmark today gets 30 percent of its total electricity needs met by a combination of onshore and offshore wind power. Although Cape Wind’s electricity will be sold to electric consumers statewide, Cape Wind’s electricity supply will be consumed almost entirely on the Cape and Islands. Cape Wind’s turbines will produce power 88 percent of the time, and in average wind conditions will supply 75 percent of the average electricity demand of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

It has been a long road for Cape Wind, but we are now in our financing stage and preparing for project construction. Right now Europe is successfully operating 64 offshore wind farms that were built over the past 23 years, creating 58,000 offshore wind jobs in the process.  Massachusetts has some of the best offshore wind resources in the world and will soon have North America’s first offshore wind farm. Cape Wind will provide greater energy independence and electric reliability while also creating good jobs and contributing to a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable energy future.

Mark Rodgers is the communications director of Cape Wind, based in Boston.

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Comments

  1. We need reasonably safe, reliable, and commercially
    reasonable energy sources.

    Cape Wind poses a threat to Public Safety, air and vessel
    passengers.

    Threat to air travelers-

    Mark J. Cool on 1/23/14:

    “This is very very concerning, I retired this past summer
    from the FAA and from the very same air traffic control facility spoken of in
    the Court appeal. After reading this, I called to check with former work-mates
    of mine, front-line air traffic controllers working air traffic around the Cape
    & Islands. These controllers told me that the problems of radar
    interference and radar anomalies — despite the digital upgrade to the ATC
    radar system — CONTINUE TO EXIST & CONTINUE TO BE REPORTED…”
    http://www.capecodtoday.com/article/2014/01/23/23701-us-court-appeals-upholds-faa%E2%80%99s-approval-cape-wind-project-again

    Threat to Mariners-

    MMS Final Environmental Impact Statement anticipates 1.43 vessel collisions
    per year with the introduction of Cape Wind.
    http://epa.gov/region1/communities/pdf/CapeWind/Comment17BarbaraDurkin2.pdf

    Reliable? Commercially Reasonable? Cape Wind?

    The fact that Cape Wind as 130 (GE 3.6 MW “discontinued”)
    wind turbines was under evaluation by 17 permit reviewing entities over a
    period of several years; and the that their now spec’d Siemens 3.6 MW wind turbines are reported to be, “sinking”, “shifting” and “corroding” offshore U.K.; and
    that fact that Cape Wind energy cost would be triple current AFTER public
    subsidies, should be moot facts. The most important public policy consideration is Public Safety. Cape Wind fails this most important test.

    1. These issues were minutely scrutinized during the more than decade of permitting and review and the appropriate agencies and entities found that none of the issues you sight posed credible threats- which is why the upshot of all this is that Cape Wind cleared the necessary hurdles and received the permits it requires.
      You may not like or agree with these conclusions and findings Barbara (your opinions have been clearly expressed throughout this long process) but they still stand. The fact that offshore wind has shown to be one of the elements comprising a successful alternative to fossil fuels consumption worldwide and continues to be a growth industry suggests that your cherry picked ‘facts’ may not tell the entire story.

      1. Nonsense, Farrmer5,

        Cape Wind is a Technological Boondoggle:

        Cape Wind’s 130″discontinued”
        GE 3.6 MW wind turbines, the topic of the 4,000 page project DEIS, “Proposed
        Action”, was deemed as a “reliable” energy source by regulators who ignore public needs.

        Cape Wind is an Economic Boondoogle:

        [Cape Wind] “will cost approximately $2.5 billion to build.
        This works out to $5,506,608 per MW. A natural gas plant generally costs less
        than $900,000 per MW.”

        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/03/12/marylands-wind-powered-welfare/

        4/14 NJ Board of Public Utilities rejects offshore wind plan due to bad economics-

        http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2014/03/nj_rejects_3-year_effort_to_install_wind_farm_off_atlantic_city_coast.html

        Germany, France, Spain, Britain & Italy have trimmed
        renewable energy subsidies because they’re too costly for consumers.

        http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2014/01/renewable-energy-loses-out-in-europes-lame-duck-climate-plan?cmpid=WNL-Friday-January24-2014

        Read about, ‘The Clean Tech Crash’ which aired on Jan. 5, 2014, Lesley Stahl is the correspondent.

        http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cleantech-crash-60-minutes/

        Green Jobs? Indeed. In Europe and funded by U.S. citizens.

        NYT 1/23/14[Cape Wind] ‘U.S. Offshore Wind Farm, Made in Europe’

        http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/business/energy-environment/us-offshore-wind-farm-made-in-europe.html?_r=0

        Politics trumps Public Safety with Cape Wind:

        The U.S. House of Representatives’ COMMITTEE
        ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM on August 6, 2012 wrote to President Obama:

        “Documents show that your personal interest in the Cape Wind offshore wind farm may have created pressure on career officials to approve the project.”

        “On June 16, 2011, Silver used his Yahoo! Account to e-mail
        O’Rourke at his Gmail address. He wrote, “{G}et cape wind done by sept 30. That’s more important to the president.”

        “The Committee found that the Federal Aviation
        Administration (“FAA”) approved Cape Wind despite safety concerns. On numerous occasions, FAA officials stated
        in e-mail that they were aware of the “politics” of the decision and that Cape Wind “was being moved by politics.”

        http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Chairman-Issa-to-President-Obama-8-8-12.pdf

        1. The ‘nonsense’ as you put it has withstood 26 legal challenges to date. If your facts are irrefutable one would expect a different outcome.
          Offshore wind power is not perfect and it is not a panacea for solving the problems facing a global community but it is a reasonable component. If this were not the case (as you assert) then the thousands of utility-scale turbines would have gone out of favor a long time ago. That is not the case.
          Also, when the full range of costs are taken into account (not just cost per megawatt) the story is quite different.
          Nukes, coal, natural gas, oil have been the traditional means of generating cheap electricity. The true costs per megawatt however never include environmental damage, CO2, smog, water contamination…etc. We don’t even have to invoke Chernobyl, Fukashima, Three Mile Island, gas ‘fracking’ to understand the benefits of wind power.

          1. What more proof is needed that this is a colossal folly, as the Enron business model, than the fourteen thousand wind turbines that have fallen out of favor, been abandoned.

            http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/02/wind_energys_ghosts_1.html

            Wind turbine manufacturing requires rare earth minerals, a process that is toxic to the environment. China controls about 98% of the world’s rare earth minerals. Do we want to become dependent upon China for our wind energy supply chain? Pollute our environment to save it?

            Wind requires increased vessel traffic (one of the EPA top carbon offenders), steel and concrete processing, (two more EPA top carbon offenders), and fiberglass football-field-sized blades that cannot be recycled, Will more industrialization cure the environmental damage caused by industrialization? Is this strategy a form of homeopathy? Like cures like?

            Why advocate for the construction of a project the regulators admit will triple current energy cost, at best, and After public subsidies? The assumption that Cape Wind would be reliable lacks a basis. For the near duration of the permit review, Cape Wind was 130 “discontinued” wind turbines.

            Cape Wind=Faith=Religion=Global Warming

            Will: ‘Global Warming Is Socialism by the Back Door’

            http://blog.heritage.org/2014/04/30/will-global-warming-socialism-back-door/?utm_source=heritagefoundation&utm_medium=email&utm_term=headline&utm_content=140503&utm_campaign=saturday

          2. Barbara I wish we could have a reasonable debate but that would mean that you would have to respond to the points and questions I have raised in my previous posts. Instead you choose to pile on more and more website links, many of which are outdated or simply biased. You also edit the headlines to suit your purposes. I did follow the link to the Windpower Monthly (among others) and see that you failed to include the rest of the title which noted that the number of individual windpower installations was up sharply in 2013.
            Nearly all of the abandoned installations you harp on involve obsolete technologies and are decades old. The environmental issues you cite regarding rare earth minerals is reasonable but not when compared with the wide array of environmental concerns I have already cited or alluded which dwarf the rare earth argument.
            Again, I refer you to the 26 legal challenges Cape Wind has withstood to date and the growing implementation of wind installations worldwide.

          3. It’s a challenge to debate a faith-based position that defines
            “discontinued” wind turbines as a “reliable” source of energy. Unless
            you’re willing to wait for the wind to blow to power a gas pump to fuel
            your car, as fossil fuel is needed for baseload power when the wind
            doesn’t blow, you’re advocating that we pay twice. And wind energy you
            favor is triple current energy cost After public subsidies. But then,
            GE couldn’t tame the sea for Arklow, Cape Wind’s test pilot, and
            discontinued their Cape Wind spec’d 3.6 MW wind turbine.

            You
            can cite legal challenges all day that favor Cape Wind. The inherent
            assumptions that Cape Wind is a reasonably safe, commercially
            reasonable, and reasonably reliable energy source are, well, dangerous
            assumptions.

            Those who know Nantucket Sound best have for years
            warned that Cape Wind poses threats to air travelers and to
            navigators. Even the culture of ethical failure (US OIG description of
            MMS), calculates 1.43 vessel collisions per year by introduction of Cape
            Wind. Will these vessels include ferries? Fishing vessels? Air
            traffic controllers are now sounding the alarms about wind turbine radar
            interference and radar anomalies-despite the digital upgrade to the ATC
            radar system by the FAA. This translates to approximately 400,000
            annual flights being guided by air traffic controllers viewing radar
            anomalies on their radar screens.

            Cape Wind’s long list of adverse impacts are being ignored to the detriment of our environment, economy, humans and wildlife.

            Consider
            that the dozen or more architects (Patrick Administration Public
            Officials) of green laws passed and gutted (Chapter 91) to advance Cape
            Wind have migrated to the renewables sector to service this scam, and to
            collect public subsidies.

            “Green is green.” This is neither about public, nor environmental merit. This is about greed, and fuel poverty, and the Enron business model.

            http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/04/23/Germany-discovers-sense-of-humour-loses-faith-in-green-energy