Library filed under Offshore Wind from Massachusetts
It wasn't a large plume of smoke. More like a puff. It was white, with a dim flash of red at the beginning. Roughly 30 seconds after the smoke dissipated, a small fountain of water bubbled up to the surface. It was the first of what will be 50 blasts in the bedrock to make way for large boats carrying turbine components to the under-construction South Terminal. Bill White is director of offshore wind for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which owns South Terminal.
Parker hopes that Cape Wind can't find lenders to help pay the more than $2 billion it will take to build 130 wind turbines, each one rising more than 400 feet out of Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind at one point said they would have no problem borrowing money to build the wind farm if the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved generous agreements with power companies.
Cape Wind, based in Boston, has spent more than a decade pursuing the $2.6 billion project in Nantucket Sound, fighting opposition from environmental groups, local fishermen and members of the Kennedy family. It must begin construction by Dec. 31 to earn the federal investment tax credit.
Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for EMI, tells me the firm didn't bid on the offshore leases because its team is completely focused on securing financing for Cape Wind by the end of 2013. The company has made some progress this year in that regard, but it still has a ways to go for a project that will likely exceed $2 billion in cost. Rodgers says EMI will strongly consider other offshore wind areas that could be the subject of future lease auctions.
The offshore wind developer has said publicly it will use New Bedford's South Terminal to stage its materials and equipment provided the port facility is completed within its 19-month timetable. In order to use the new facility, Cape Wind would need to revise its construction plan with the federal Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, something it has not yet done.
A flood of unexpectedly cheap natural gas could put a damper on offshore winds' fresh enthusiasm. Electric utilities may find it cheaper and easier to enjoy cheap gas while they can and put off more costly investments in alternatives, at least in the near term. "There's some truth that the decline in gas prices has changed people's perception about the urgency of renewables."
Officials have been studying the feasibility of constructing four or five offshore wind turbines, enough to power the entire town under ideal wind conditions. But the project has been on hold for several years, and a recent report suggests it may be too expensive and generate too little revenue to make it worthwhile.
Rodgers said Cape Wind has periodically met with other ports as the project has progressed, and he would not go into detail about the meeting. But he said among the topics they discussed was whether Quonset would be able to take on at least some of the work Cape Wind planned to do in New Bedford.