Cape Wind calls it quits

Gordon says he is surrendering offshore wind lease

THE DEVELOPER BEHIND CAPE WIND, who sought to pioneer offshore wind power in the United States but never managed to shake legal challenges from locals led by billionaire William Koch, has thrown in the towel and decided to move on.

Jim Gordon, the president of Cape Wind Associates, notified the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Wednesday that he is abandoning development of the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound and surrendering the commercial lease the project obtained in 2010. Gordon has personally invested more than $100 million in the project.

In a brief telephone interview on Friday, an emotional Gordon said the decision was “probably the deepest, most personal decision that I’ve made in my career.”

The project overcame countless legal challenges, but the “delay, delay, delay” strategy of the opponents in the end proved successful. A key turning point came in early 2015, when Cape Wind was unable to complete construction financing by a fixed deadline and watched as Eversource and National Grid canceled their power purchase contracts with the project.

Most developers probably would have thrown in the towel then, but Gordon kept at it. He defended his permits against legal challenges and briefly tried to make a comeback as the Legislature in 2016 began considering legislation committing the state to a massive procurement of offshore wind power.

But then a panel dominated by Baker administration appointees refused to grant Cape Wind a permit extension for construction of a transmission line between the wind farm and shore. The final blow came when the offshore wind legislation approved by Beacon Hill included a provision barring Cape Wind from even bidding on contracts to supply electricity. Only those projects with leases much farther offshore have been allowed to compete.

Koch, who didn’t want Cape Wind built because it would spoil the view from his Osterville compound, made no secret of his plan for killing Cape Wind. In a 2013 interview with CommonWealth, he said he was pursuing two Cape Wind strategies through a group called the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

“One is to just delay, delay, delay, which we’re doing and hopefully we can win some of these bureaucrats over,” Koch said. “The other way is to elect politicians who understand how foolhardy alternative energy is.”

Cape Wind benefited from support it received from former governor Deval Patrick, who most notably strong-armed a reluctant Eversource Energy into signing a power purchase agreement with the wind project in order to win regulatory approval for a corporate merger. Cape Wind has fared less well with Gov. Charlie Baker, who has never been a supporter of Cape Wind even though his administration is now pushing forward with a major offshore wind procurement.

In a statement, Cape Wind appeared to blame its decision to surrending its lease on the constant legal challenges to the project. “Despite strong support from the public and environmental advocates, an opposition group funded largely by wealthy waterfront homeowners and led by a fossil fuel billionaire filed more than 25 appeals in a continuous effort to obstruct the construction of the project,” the statement said.

In the statement, Gordon was quoted as saying his company has developed a billion dollars of renewable solar and biomass energy projects during Cape Wind’s development period.  He also said he was proud of the company’s trailblazing efforts in offshore wind development.

“Our successful resolution of the multiple appeals established important legal precedents that will hopefully make it easier for other offshore wind developers that follow,” he said in the statement.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

In a statement, Audra Parker, the executive director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said Cape Wind “would have ruined the national treasure that is Nantucket Sound.” She said the alliance “intends to move forward with the strong and determined coalition we have forged to make certain that never again is a private developer given the rights to land that belongs to all of us.”

One of the ironies of the fight over Cape Wind is that Eversource Energy, which opposed Cape Wind and jumped at the chance to cancel its power purchase agreement with the project, is now a partner in a company pursuing offshore wind contracts with the state. That procurement is expected to move into high gear early next year.

  • NortheasternEE

    It’s amazing that the extremely high price of offshore wind energy is not mentioned as a contributing factor. With the help of Deval Patrick, utilities were coerced into multiyear contracts at about 22 cents/KWh, about 3 times more expensive than natural gas. Utilities could not wait to unload the burden, and when the super high price scared off the investors, NSTAR and National Grid invoked an escape clause in the contract to dump Cape Wind.

    The public needs to know that offshore wind power is more than twice as expensive. We are already paying some of the highest rates in the country. The push by Beacon Hill to 100% renewable by 2050 is forcing the early closure of reliable coal and nuclear power that is being replaced by natural gas and oil, because wind and solar cannot be dispatched when needed. By 2050 we will have skyrocketing rates, power failures when the grid runs short of natural gas, and Global Warming as well. Replacing dirty coal and clean nuclear with dirty natural gas and oil avoids little to no carbon emissions.

    • Andrew

      Good luck putting a coal plant in Osterville. You know that will never happen. So just answer me this. Would you be OK with a coal plant in your town? (You won’t answer)

      • NortheasternEE

        Let’s not play dumb! The demand for more power peaked 10 years ago. There is no need for any more power. Cape Wind was an expensive add-on we do not need.

        • Andrew

          And I was correct you did not answer. You complained in an earlier post about not having enough power for the future and that we need to build coal and other fossil type plants to supplement so now you are saying we don’t. Convenient.

          • NortheasternEE

            The forced addition of variable and intermittent power (VRE) from wind and solar is the main cause for the early retirement of baseload coal and nuclear. Since VRE cannot function alone without backup firming from flexible natural gas power, baseload is being replaced by new natural gas power plants. We are increasing total power to address a declining demand.

            http://www.capecodtimes.com/news/20171203/group-protests-new-canal-generating-plant

            The result of all this is higher rates with little to no carbon avoidance.

      • taxnation

        There is no need for a Coal Plant. We have plenty of Oil, and more on the way, as well as Natural Gas. All is well in America !!!

  • Helen Parker

    If more voters cared enough to examine the counter-productive fantasy of depending on sunshine and breezes for life-sustaining energy, we might yet stem the tide of the wind industry invasion which promises only to leave unfathomable detritus littering land and sea forever.

    Reporting on Friday’s Cape Wind announcement, Bloomberg News notes that ‘several of the developers [planning industrial wind projects up and down the East Coast] said they learned a key lesson from Cape Wind: don’t try to build within sight of shore.’ It’s a dishonorably reassuring line:

    The Martha’s Vineyard Times reminds us that three companies are scheduled to submit bids later this month to site wind farms just 15 miles off the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

    A 2012 BOEM-sponsored Offshore Wind Turbine Visibility study found that “small to moderately sized facilities were visible to the unaided eye at distances greater than 26 mi (42 km), with turbine blade movement visible up to 24 mi (39 km). At night, aerial hazard navigation lighting was visible at distances greater than 24 mi (39 km).” IWTs have grown a lot since 2012.

    The recently-installed Block Island Wind Farm turbines are 574’ tall, almost half again as tall as the 397’ onshore Falmouth turbines which are easily seen from Vineyard Haven’s Beach Road 11 miles distant.

    More importantly, state taxpayers and ratepayers (job-seekers too) will suffer the rocketing costs arising from our aggressive energy bill, passed in 2016, which requires MA utilities to buy a combined 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2027.

    Today The Australian offers a highly readable explanation of how a power grid dominated by weather-dependant wind and solar has resulted in South Australia power consumers paying the highest power prices in the world, while becoming increasingly vulnerable to sustained energy blackouts during peak demand periods.

    https://stopthesethings.com/2017/12/02/guilty-subsidised-wind-solar-drive-australias-rocketing-retail-power-prices/

    See also: Industrial Wind: A Net Loser:

    https://www.masterresource.org/windpower/wind-loser/

    Twenty Bad Things About Wind Energy: https://www.masterresource.org/grassroots-opposition/20-bad-things-wind-3-reasons-why/

    https://stopthesethings.com/2017/11/10/minnesota-throws-billions-at-wind-power-but-co2-emissions-barely-budge/

    https://stopthesethings.com/2017/12/01/germanys-wind-solar-obsession-pushes-power-grid-to-brink-of-total-collapse/

    https://stopthesethings.com/2017/11/14/kaput-german-wind-farms-set-for-dismantling-as-subsidies-dry-up/

  • Jim Wiegand

    Guess they could not rig this project through. Either way good news for locals and taxpayers.

    For the honest people in this world, here are some excellent reasons to never support wind energy.

    1) Scientific research in this corrupt age, is routinely rigged to favor corporate profits. The only scientifically legitimate turbine mortality study I have ever read was conducted over 30 years ago in 1985. The rest have been
    contrived garbage

    2) When fossil fuels run out, our primary energy will not be generated by wind. It will not even be close.because wind provides so little net energy. With just wind or primarily wind, it would be a dark world. Nuclear and other
    new energy sources will be the primary providers But due to collusion the public has not been told. In other words the energy to power your Tesla has not and will not be coming from wind.

    3) Wind energy can never be cheaper than other energy sources with taxpayers giving developers billions annually. Energy producers are betraying consumers because currently enough cheap gas and coal that could provide many times over the energy from wind, is now being exported to other countries each year. This is happening because selling the illusion of wind to taxpayers, is an industrial cash cow. This illusion becomes even more clear when people understand the actual net energy benefit to consumers is a fraction of what this fraud of an industry claims.

    4) Wind energy primarily creates temporary jobs, but it destroys communities by greatly reducing property values for those not holding leases and wind energy blight reduces regional tourism.

    5) States want to buy wind energy because it is part of a rigged and fake green mandate which creates an artificial demand. But before reaching consumers, over 1/2 of the energy produced by distant wind projects disappears in transmission losses. Developers, stakeholders and utilities lie by omission about this, so more lucrative tax credits are given out.

    6) Every form of energy has its environmental costs, but none are so high as sprawling wind energy
    developments. Per kWh Wind energy is at least 500 -1000 times deadlier for birds and bats than other energy sources.

    The absolute biggest threat to rare birds across the world is the mass killing propeller style wind turbine
    spinning in remote habitats. This industrial monster has put dozens of species on a fast track to extinction. Non-Disclosure agreements, fraud, a persistent pattern of fraudulent research and corruption are all keeping this hidden.

    7) In America, virtually every one of this country’s wind energy development (1980 – to present), are here only
    because of fraud and corporate/government collusion.

    Yesterday’s lie to American people was that wind was going to save us from a reliance middle eastern oil. Today’s
    lie is that it will save us from climate change and power an electrical future. Tomorrow’s lie will be anything to keep this 4 decade trillion-dollar cash cow going.

    For any that thinks wind turbines can fix or help fix climate, think again. Despite what is being printed in the
    media, these monsters produce very little net energy for society. And the many complex issues surrounding climate cannot be influenced by these ridicilous turbines. A man wanting to start a family and have
    children by marrying a goat, has the same Zero chance as this fraudulent industry does changing climate.

    8) Besides this industry’s 33 year pattern of rigged mortality impact research, here is the best example of
    corporate /government collusion…………Eagle fatalities. Conveniently this industry does not have to report them but they must collect and store them in freezers for USFWS agents. Over a 15 year period, while this industry
    reported 82 eagle fatalities, tens of thousands of eagle carcasses were shipped to the Denver Eagle Repository. Going back to 1997, Our corrupt Interior Department will not disclose the source of any of these Repository eagles. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9ae62e1dbf6f6ac16b0a47852153d02c6ccd10036bc8645ba31bfc18e186f9ed.jpg carcasses.

  • taxnation

    I’d say the people have spoken. I can see Gordon wants to lay the on blame Baker, Koch and anyone else they can name from the Right. But the fact is Teddy Kennedy, and many other eastern State Elitists opposed it long ago. More Residents now than ever oppose it, and they’re the working folks who will be the ones to suffer. Fact is, Wind Power and Solar are a joke. The cost / benefit numbers just don’t add up, but don’t let that stand in the way. The Taxpayers will foot the Bill in subsidies, and the Democratic Power structure on Beacon Hill will be the true beneficiaries. #DEEPSTATE