Cape Wind: Will it be first?
Developer Jim Gordon says market timing is good but condemns frivolous lawsuits
Cape Wind appears to be moving closer to construction, but it’s no longer clear whether the Nantucket Sound wind farm will be America’s first.
At a conference in Boston of offshore wind industry officials from across the world, Cape Wind’s developer, Jim Gordon, said he expected financing for the 130-turbine project to be completed by the end of October. He said construction will begin in 2015 and finish sometime in 2016.
Jeff Grybowski, the chief executive of Deepwater Wind, said his much smaller, five-turbine demonstration project off of Block Island is on a similar timetable. He said he expects to begin installing foundations next year and turbines in 2016.
Gordon said he didn’t know whether Cape Wind or Deepwater Wind would be America’s first operating wind farm, but added that it didn’t matter. “The important thing is that this industry puts some steel in the water,” he said.
In his speech this year to the group, Gordon spoke passionately about how his wind farm is needed now by a region desperate for low-carbon energy. He also urged environmentalists, legislators, and others to discuss ways to curtail the type of lawsuits that have stalled his project over the years.
The cost of Cape Wind power would be high, but Gordon and other speakers at the conference made the case that the price is competitive in a region becoming over-dependent on natural gas and losing or about to lose many of its coal-fired power plants. Gordon noted that Cape Wind’s price of approximately 19 cents a kilowatt hour compares favorably with the 23.7-cent market price of electricity on Wednesday.
Ann Berwick, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, acknowledged in a speech on Tuesday that the cost of Cape Wind electricity on most days will be high relative to the market. But she said the wind farm is needed because it represents one of the few major sources of low-carbon electricity available. “You can’t decarbonize the New England grid without offshore wind,” she said.
Gordon said New England is facing an historic choice. With coal and other electricity plants shutting down or nearing retirement, he said the region needs new power sources with low carbon footprints. He said New England will have to choose between expanding pipelines so more natural gas can be brought into the region, importing hydroelectricity from Canada, or developing a wind industry off the state’s coast.
“Cape Wind can solve a problem that exists today, not tomorrow,” he said.
Gordon also ranted about “vexatious litigation” that has delayed his project and contributed to the “exploitation of people in this room.” He said he knows many environmentalists use litigation to slow down or block projects they oppose, but he urged environmentalists to join with him in calling for reforms that would limit the number of court challenges a project can face.
“I’m out here slinging a new product called green energy,” Gordon said. “Other parties don’t want this to happen because it’s a disruptive technology.”
Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, issued a statement yesterday criticizing Cape Wind for relying on foreign investors and failing to deliver on past promises to begin construction. “Cape Wind is an outdated project that would cost ratepayers three times the cost of other readily available renewable energy – adding billions of dollars in unnecessary electricity costs for Massachusetts ratepayers to create jobs overseas,” she said.