Tags Posts tagged with "Cape Wind"

Cape Wind

by -

A decision by utility giants to pull financing could leave the project twisting in the wind.

The Cape Wind project would be visible from Martha's Vineyard. Martha's Vineyard Times file photo (2011)

The decisions of two utilities to pull their financing commitments for the Cape Wind project represent a “near-fatal blow” to the offshore energy project, according to its opponents, although project officials claim the moves by Northeast Utilities and National Grid are invalid.

Gov. Deval Patrick, a longtime proponent of the project, said Wednesday that he learned Tuesday night of the decision by the two utilities to terminate their power purchase agreements.

“We’ve done everything as a state government to get them over the regulatory lines, and I’ve said before and say again, after that it’s up to the market and up to the leadership of the project and their partners to get it done,” Mr. Patrick said.

Asked whether the project could survive, Mr. Patrick said, “I don’t know.

They’ve had any number of setbacks, the most significant of which has been the perpetual litigation for the past, more than 10, years,” he said.

The proposed area of the Cape Wind project.
The proposed area of the Cape Wind project.

A leading opponent of the project, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound President and CEO Audra Parker called for Cape Wind’s lease to be revoked and for Nantucket Sound to be named a national marine sanctuary “so that it is protected from future development and preserved for its rightful owners — the citizens of the United States.”

“The decision by NSTAR and National Grid to end their contracts with Cape Wind is a fatal or near-fatal blow to this expensive and outdated project. While it’s very bad news for Cape Wind, it is very good news for ratepayers who will save billions of dollars in electric bills,” Ms. Parker said in a statement.

Cape Wind officials have been struggling for years to secure necessary permits, overcome legal challenges, and assemble financing for the plan to plant wind turbines in the sound to generate renewable energy.

With backing from Mr. Patrick, the project has been tethered to state investments in a New Bedford marine terminal, and was once hailed by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

In April 2010, Mr. Salazar approved the 130-turbine, 25-square-mile wind farm, calling it “the final decision of the United States of America.” At a State House event with Salazar, Patrick said he expected project construction to begin “within a year.”

National Grid spokesman Jake Navarro expressed disappointment that Cape Wind was “unable to meet its commitments under the contract,” leading to Tuesday’s termination of the power purchase agreement.

“We still believe the solution to New England’s energy challenge is a diversity of energy sources, which is why we support renewable projects consistent with our goal of reducing emissions while minimizing the cost impact on our customers,” Mr. Navarro said. “We will continue to pursue other renewable options, including solar, competitively priced on- and offshore wind, and other technologies as they become available.”

Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said project officials did not regard the contract terminations as valid due to provisions that he said extend the milestone dates.

Touting the project’s capacity to address climate change and create jobs, he said it would be a “travesty if delays caused by an interest group funded by one of the Koch brothers could stop” the project.

In Dec. 31 letters to National Grid and Northeast Utilities, Cape Wind President James Gordon said that after 14 years of efforts, the project “continued to make excellent progress” on financing and siting work.

Mr. Gordon attributed Cape Wind’s failure to achieve project milestones to “extended, unprecedented and relentless litigation” from the alliance.

Cape Wind “fully expects” to overcome remaining litigation hurdles in 2015, according to Mr. Gordon, who requested that each utility “forbear on any rights it may believe it has to terminate” its contracts.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a major business trade group, endorsed the decision of the utilities to terminate their contracts with Cape Wind.

In a statement, AIM Executive Vice President John Regan said the actions “will save customers billions of dollars that would otherwise have been spent buying electricity at the highest power price ever negotiated in Massachusetts.”

In its statement, Northeast Utilities said Cape Wind had missed contract deadlines established in 2012 to secure financing and begin construction on Dec. 31, 2014.

Senator Dan Wolf said he was not surprised by the announcement, because he knew the utilities were looking for the project to begin by the end of the year.

While Mr. Wolf is a proponent of developing offshore wind energy, he called the Cape Wind process “flawed.”

“To take that kind of open space and allow a private developer without a fully vetted public process has led to 13 years of confusion and not good outcomes,” Senator Wolf said. “I’ve been ambivalent because I like the technology of that project, but I’ve never been comfortable with the business model or the regulatory oversight. So it’s yes on the science and yes on the energy, but I’ve been uneasy about the land-grab and development side.”

While Cape Wind’s future is cloudy, federal officials are moving ahead with ambitious offshore wind-energy leasing.

Four leases for 742,000 acres of sea south of Martha’s Vineyard — an area roughly the size of Rhode Island — are scheduled to be put up for bid at a wind-power auction on Jan. 29, 2015.

“There is so much opportunity south of the Vineyard, down toward Block Island, and I really think that’s where we need to be focused on developing because that’s where the mother lode of wind is,” Senator Wolf said.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management previously identified this area south of Martha's Vineyard as available for wind energy development. BOEM redefined the area in June, 2012, and the amended area is shown on the map.

Four leases for 742,000 acres of sea south of Martha’s Vineyard — an area roughly the size of Rhode Island — will be put up for bid at a wind power auction on Jan. 29, 2015.

If leased and developed by the power industry, the area has the potential to provide wind-generated electricity to 1.4 million homes, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which announced the auction date Monday and pitched it as part of President Barack Obama’s climate action plan and efforts to reduce carbon pollution.

The area stretches 33 nautical miles from north to south and 47 nautical miles from east to west and is the largest offshore wind tract in federal waters in the United States.

Twelve companies are qualified to bid for the project, which is farther out to sea than other wind projects, such as Cape Wind, in development off the shores of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind New England, which has plans to build 200 offshore turbines to the north and west of the tract, is qualified to try for the larger plot. EDF Renewable Development, Energy Management, Fishermen’s Energy, Green Sail Energy, IBERDROLA RENEWABLES, NRG Bluewater Wind Massachusetts, OffshoreMW, RES America Developments, Sea Breeze Energy, US Mainstream Renewable Power (Offshore) and U.S. Wind are all qualified to bid.

Known as the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area, the plot 12 nautical miles off the coast could support between 4 and 5 gigawatts of generation, according to BOEM.

If the area was built out to the maximum extent, generating a total of 4 gigawatts with 5 megawatt turbines, the acreage could contain about 800 turbines, according to BOEM spokeswoman Tracey Moriarty.

The area far surpasses the Cape Wind tract in size. Long in planning and tied up in litigation, Cape Wind is still in the process of attracting investors for its plan to be the first offshore wind farm in the United States, building 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound.

The New England Fishery Management Council, responding to an earlier version of the area in 2012, said it is used by trawlers and gillnets seeking out cod, flounder and monkfish, as well as hydraulic clam dredging, squid and herring trawling, and lobster trapping.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society also raised concerns about impacts on birds. BOEM said it adjusted the area to exclude “an area of high sea duck concentration, as well as an area of high value fisheries.”

The size of the Wind Energy Area is more than four times the size of Buzzards Bay.

To date, BOEM has awarded seven commercial wind energy leases for the waters off the Atlantic coast, including non-competitive leases for Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound and an area off the Delaware coast. Competitive lease sales have generated more than $14 million in high bids for more than 357,500 acres in federal waters, according to BOEM.

Earlier this month, Gov. Deval Patrick said he expected the federal auction would occur in December.

by -

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.

by -

If you have been marveling at the other marathon, that is, the marathon, unanesthetized colonoscopy now being performed on the Stop & Shop project, history suggests that this is nothing new. When we fight, especially when we consider change, we insular types don’t flag, we don’t cave, we hold grudges, we fight on. Winston Churchill — “Never give in”  — would be proud. The fight over the Nantucket Sound Islands Trust legislation went on for years, followed by the fight over the Martha’s Vineyard Commission legislation, the fight over the creation of the Land Bank, the battle over the golf courses, the vicious and wearing conflict over the Ramsey-Counter land claim, and on and on, beyond remembering.

But, it may be that the fight over Cape Wind, still muttering on in the background, will one day be crowned the mother of all political wars. Cape Wind, more than a decade in the application-permitting-financing journey, has not erected a single turbine, not created a single volt of electrical power, and it’s better than even money that it never will.

If you are one of those who favor a clean, plentiful, growing, cheap supply of energy to support the growth of the American economy — and, naturally enough, its many subdivisions, including this tiny, remote (but not remote enough) outpost we call home — I urge you not to despair.

The state of Massachusetts, in its nutty devotion to wind-powered, ocean-based generating plants deployed, in cooperation with the federal government, in a strangling circle around the Vineyard, does not feel your pain. Indeed, the state’s aim is not only to conspire over the Cape Wind project, but to elbow aside valid economic and environmental concerns expressed by Islanders, to allow, no matter what local opinions may hold, wind factories to the east, west and north of us. It’s a plan whose benefits are immeasurably small and diminishing compared with new, less expensive land based technologies — especially solar, whose installation costs have plunged in the last few years. But, it’s a plan whose time, if it ever came, has now gone.

Among the drawbacks, and the Cape Wind deal with National Grid draws this out plainly, are the state’s policy determinations to allow the expansion of wind generation, no matter what the cost to residential and commercial customers and no matter whether the local targets agree to the intrusion. Wind-driven sea-based power will be significantly more expensive than energy produced by any other source, but the state endorses it, subsidizes it, and would protect its higher costs by attempting to block energy suppliers from buying less expensive power — even power from renewables — created out of state. Absent the politically forced premium to be paid for Cape Wind electricity, the development of that wind turbine factory could not be funded. Wind power needs such well-intentioned but foolishly conceived support, otherwise developers of wind-driven electricity would not find financing or a market. At this point, wind enthusiasts point to billions in subsidies extended to other energy producers, notably oil. But, although oil doesn’t create much electricity in the U.S., it is a vital, current transportation fuel, and for good reason. Oil produces powerful energy, and does it relatively cheaply. It’s been worth subsidizing.

The argument here is that the energy future of our economy will be built on electricity and transportation fuels. Oil, whether produced here or abroad, does not figure significantly in electricity generation now and will certainly figure only marginally in the equation as we move forward. But it predominates as a motor fuel and a raw material in too many manufacturing processes to count, and it will continue to do so until replacement technologies can be concocted or discovered that furnish the same dense, cheap power and hugely variable utility.

The keys to plentiful, growing, and inexpensive sources of electrical power are conservation (especially in homes and vehicles), natural gas, and nuclear power. Something better may come along, but it won’t be wind. And, political manipulation will not make ocean-based wind power more desirable, more economical to build, or more reasonably priced for consumers.

As is apparent after a decade of debate over Cape Wind, the industrialization of 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound and of the empty ocean southwest and northwest of the Vineyard will diminish valuable, wild, clean seascapes, in exchange for modest, intermittent supplies of high-priced electricity that will in the end depend on traditionally fueled, efficient, powerful, economically scalable electricity generators capable of reliably producing power when we need it. And, doing it less expensively on a much less profligate footprint.

The Cape Wind deal to sell the electric power that the planned Nantucket Sound wind farm would one day produce will cost electricity end-users billions more than conventionally produced power. That’s not because wind-driven electricity is better electricity, or more dependable, or more easily scaled up to meet growing demand, or less demanding of the natural environment — consider the marine acreage to be consumed — but it’s because the political climate insists on it, no matter the costs.

For someone with a native fondness for New Bedford, the Whaling City, I’m happy to report that the only valuable spinoff from the failing Cape Wind project is the rehabilitation of a portion of the New Bedford waterfront.

Gov. Deval Patrick selected a portion of New Bedford’s waterfront that will be resurrected to serve Cape Wind’s construction and maintenance needs as the staging area for its turbine factory at Horseshoe Shoals. It’s about $35 million in investments, now underway in the form of dredging and dock building. We’re likely never to feel a single jolt from electricity produced by Cape Wind, but at least a community that needs investment and jobs is getting a lift from the project, now in hospice care.