Opponents of the Cape Wind energy project thought the fork had finally been stuck in it — not once, but twice.
First were the cancellations of contracts in January by National Grid and Eversource, the two major customers for 468 mW of wind energy proposed to be generated off Cape Cod, Mass.
After losing those contracts, Cape Wind moved to cancel its own $4.5 million lease with the South Coast Marine Commercial Terminal in New Bedford, Mass. Critics hooted, calling out Massachusetts state officials for investing $113 million to renovate 28 acres of the terminal so Cape Wind could use it for loading turbine components for barging offshore.
“Cape Wind, for those who are unaware, was a typical Big Green project designed to toss a bunch of wind turbines off of the coast of Massachusetts,” wrote Moe Lane, a contributor to the conservative news site RedState.com. “It is dying now, partially because the turbines would have gotten in the way of rich people’s view of the water and partially because the industry apparently still can’t survive without subsidies.”
Then, surprise. Last week the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound protested that Cape Wind had quietly filed an April 7 request to state officials for a 24-month extension of the permits the company needs to run power lines from the turbine sites to shore.
“This is a clear indication that Cape Wind has not given up on its plans to build 130 massive wind turbines in the sound,” alliance president Audra Parker said.
One might have guessed. Cape Wind president Jim Gordon presided over a March 1 rally on Boston Common with renewable energy supporters, telling them “We are not giving up…We have just begun to fight.”
When National Grid and Eversource backed out of their contracts, they cited Cape Wind’s failure to meet a Dec. 31, 2014, deadline for financing and starting the $2.6 billion project. But Gordon contends another clause in the contract allows for adjusting to outside forces — specifically, “relentless litigation.” The company has contended for years with Nantucket Sound residents.
The arguments and alliances over offshore wind power get complicated. National environmental groups like wind power, local groups object to its impact on habitat and sea views.
A lot of commercial fishermen foresee being shut out of ocean wind farm areas for obscure “security” concerns, but some recreational anglers relish the prospect of new hard structures to attract fish. Other offshore energy analysts insist wind won’t survive when government subsidies wind down.
Blount Boats of Warren, R.I., is betting on the wind guys. The family-owned company has the first contact for a wind farm crewboat in the United States.
For a story in WorkBoat’s upcoming July issue, I talked to CEO Marcia Blount about how her company carefully planned to be first in line for building wind farm service vessels for the East Coast wind industry.
Despite Cape Wind’s troubles, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is opening leases in federal waters farther off New England, and wind developers are talking to Blount about their future vessel needs.
Nor is Marcia Blount so sure Cape Wind, is dead just yet.
“It’s been pronounced dead before,” Blount said. “But Jim Gordon is a very resourceful guy.”