Cape Wind receives another blow

A long-planned Cape Wind project encountered another setback on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy of Cape Wind

With the potential offshore wind market in Massachusetts drawing interest from players around the world, the long-planned Cape Wind project encountered yet another setback on Tuesday when a state agency issued a preliminary recommendation to deny an extension of its permits to construct a transmission line under Nantucket Sound.

The Energy Facilities Siting Board, in a 26-page “tentative decision,” turned down Cape Wind’s request to extend its state and local permits for the transmission project until May 1, 2017. Cape Wind had been seeking a two-year extension from last year’s expiration date, but the board concluded that the project “needs a lengthy, almost open-ended” extension period. “In such extreme circumstances, as in this proceeding, extensions of prior approvals must cease and a project proponent must start the process anew for a project to merit Siting Board approval,” the decision stated, according to the State House News Service.

The permits relate to the construction of an underwater and on-shore transmission line that would connect the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound with the regional transmission grid at Barnstable Switching Station. During the proceedings, Cape Wind told the siting board it could not begin construction by the previous May 1, 2015 deadline because of its inability to secure financing for the transmission line and wind farm. Cape Wind had told the board that the estimated cost of the transmission project had been reduced from $79.5 million to $63 million due to the decline in the price of copper. A spokesman said Tuesday that Cape Wind would submit a response to the board and reserve further comment until after the EFSB meets next week.

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound celebrated the decision, contending that the cancellation of power purchase agreements by Eversource and National Grid in 2014 and the loss of federal permits make it “unlikely” Cape Wind will ever be built. “While Cape Wind has failed to win transmission-line approval, the private developer has not given up trying to revive its stale project,” said Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, in a statement. “Cape Wind is seeking to secure new contracts to sell its expensive power through emerging state energy legislation, and continues to hold a long-term federal lease to 46 square miles of the Sound, giving them development rights through the year 2041.”