Cape Wind touts U.S.-based labor with new cable contracts

Source: Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014

The group aiming to install America’s first offshore wind farm announced yesterday two new contracts that it says will ensure U.S.-based labor during construction.
The proposed 420-megawatt Cape Wind project, which aims to install 130 turbines in Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound, has awarded contracts to Prysmian Cables and Systems USA, which will manufacture the onshore transmission cables, and Caldwell Marine International, which will install the underwater cables that will connect the farm to the grid.Prysmian Cables is part of Italian-based corporation the Prysmian Group, one of the world’s largest cable manufacturers. The transmission cables will be made at the company’s high-voltage facility in Abbeville, S.C., then installed by a New Jersey-based team.Caldwell Marine International is based in Farmingdale, N.J. Caldwell has not previously been involved in the offshore wind industry, “but they have extensive experience installing offshore submarine power cables,” said Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers.

“It’s going to be important in launching the U.S. offshore wind industry to start putting the pieces in place for a domestic supply chain,” Rodgers added. “We’re pleased that with the Cape Wind project, some of those first pieces are coming into place.”

James Yuille, vice president of Caldwell Marine International, said: “Not only are we proud to be part of Cape Wind, it’s important to us that the first offshore wind project gets performed by a local supplier. We think that is a very important issue.”

Caldwell’s contribution to Cape Wind’s construction will involve “as many as 90 people on the payroll,” Yuille said, with construction “running 24 hours a day with two barges and half a dozen boats running at the same time.”

Opponents take aim at European manufacturing agreements

Gerard Dhooge, president of the Boston & New England Maritime Trades Council, AFL-CIO, also lauded the contracts, saying in a statement that the announcement is “a big step forward for Cape Wind and our members.”

The Department of Energy has estimated the offshore wind industry has the potential to create more than 40,000 U.S. jobs, but many of today’s offshore wind proposals have faced criticism for relying heavily on European manufacturers.

The Providence, R.I.-based offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind recently signed an agreement with French turbine manufacturer Alstom, and a Jan. 22 New York Times article headlined “U.S. Offshore Wind Farm, Made in Europe” highlights Cape Wind’s choice to bypass a U.S. steel tank manufacturer in favor of a German company.

Both the industry and renewable energy advocacy groups have argued that it’s unreasonable to expect early projects to not rely on the more experienced and well-established overseas supply chain.

But Cape Wind’s opponents, most notably the Hyannis, Mass.-based Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, have capitalized on these developments. When the New York Times article was published, the group’s official Twitter feed, @SOS2day, provided the link and quotes from the piece in six separate tweets. One sent out Jan. 23 read: “Great New York Times article re the jobs Cape Wind would create IN EUROPE.”

The announcement falls on the heels of another development in the Cape Wind saga: Late February, Cape Wind President Jim Gordon announced that the project, which outside analysts estimate will cost $2.6 billion, had received approval for a $600 million loan from from Danish export credit agency EKF. According to Rodgers, Cape Wind expects to complete financing in the third quarter of this year (ClimateWire, Feb. 27).

Cape Wind is still dealing with pending legal challenges, including one filed by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound in late January over one of the project’s power purchase agreements. At a recent offshore wind conference in Boston, Gordon called this lawsuit “frivolous” and said he expected the case to be dismissed.