East Coast Offshore Wind Is Alive But Cape Wind Project Is Dead

Source: By Steve Hanley, CleanTechnica • Posted: Thursday, December 7, 2017

Timing is everything. Jim Gordon — who BNEF analyst Amy Grace calls “a visionary” — began planning for a proposed offshore wind farm he called Cape Wind in 2001. He wanted to plunk 130 wind turbines down in Nantucket Sound to provide power to to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. The turbines would cover a 25 square mile area and have a capacity of 468 megawatts — enough to power 200,000 homes with clean, renewable energy.

Goodbye To Cape Wind

Cape Winds offshore wind farm

Back then, renewable energy was hardly a blip on anyone’s radar screen. Anchoring the turbines to the ocean floor was a new idea and it didn’t sit well with a lot of people, especially Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy. He and his extended family were vociferous in their condemnation of the plan, claiming it would spoil their view of the ocean. Charles Koch became an ardent supporter of the opposition. Lawsuits began, subjecting the project to the “death of a thousand cuts” that is so often the outcome of litigation.

In 2015, Cape Wind failed to meet a series of contractual deadlines, which led to National Grid and Northeast Utilities cancelling their power purchase agreements. That was the last and the deepest cut. Recently, Gordon notified the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that his company, Energy Management, Inc., was terminating the offshore lease it had obtained in 2010 and ceasing all further operations.

A Quantum Change In The Offshore Wind Industry

Since 2001, the wind energy industry has experienced a quantum change in technology. Wind turbines today are bigger, taller, and several orders of magnitude more efficient. Most important, the cost of wind power has dropped dramatically in the past 17 years. “I’m pretty close to shocked with all the cost reduction developments we’re seeing by the Danish, the Dutch, the Germans — everything’s moving in the right direction,” Stephanie McClellan, a wind power expert at the University of Delaware said at the American Wind Energy Association Offshore Wind Power Conference last week.

The demise of the Cape Wind adventure has not dampened enthusiasm for offshore wind along the New England coast. OilPrice.com reports that officials from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York estimate those 3 states could have up to 8 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity in place by 2030 — enough to power 4 million homes. Constructing the systems would add 16,000 jobs to the local economies of the 3 states and add 20,000 more jobs in related industries. Rhode Island is the first U.S. state to have an offshore wind farm up and running. The Deepwater Wind installation off the coast of Block Island is replacing most of the electricity that used to be provided by diesel generators.

“New York intends to be the preeminent global hub for the next generation of the wind industry,” lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul told the conference while announcing her state’s goal of developing 4 gigawatts of offshore wind power. “Offshore wind is essential to meet New York’s ambitious energy goal and developing 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind will generate thousands of jobs in our state. We’re making unprecedented investments in infrastructure and laying the groundwork for the offshore wind industry,” she said.

America’s New Silicon Valley

Offshore wind is also a hot topic in Maryland, California, and other coastal states. “You can feel the urgency to harness this new ocean energy resource coming from states and businesses competing to be first movers,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Unlocking America’s vast offshore wind potential will reliably deliver large amounts of clean power, grow jobs, and cement American energy dominance.” New Jersey has just announced plans for 3.5 gigawatts of wind power from turbines located along its coast by 2030 and Paul Rich, a developer in Maryland, tells the Baltimore Sun his state “will be the Silicon Valley of industrial action for the offshore wind industry for the whole East Coast.”

Even though Cape Wind is now officially dead, the industry has learned a valuable lesson from Jim Gordon — put the turbines far enough out to sea so that they are out of sight. Everyone wants renewable energy, but some powerful people don’t want to see turbines from the beach.