Articles from Massachusetts
With last week's announcement of a proposed pact to sell half the power from the 130 turbines Cape Wind plans to build in Nantucket Sound, the developer is poised to pursue loans and investors to pay for the wind farm's estimated multibillion dollar price tag. Under the agreement filed May 10 with the state Department of Public Utilities, Cape Wind will sell 760 million kilowatt-hours a year to National Grid for $157 million in 2013.
National Grid, the utility that agreed to purchase half of Cape Wind's power, has made a second deal to help the controversial energy project lock down construction financing until it finds buyers for the rest of the electricity it will produce. Last week, National Grid revealed a roughly $3 billion, 15-year contract to buy 50 percent of the electricity that will be produced by Cape Wind.
The noise being generated by the town's wind turbine at the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Blacksmith Shop Road may be nothing when compared to the noise generated by a group of disgruntled residents living nearby who are upset about how the machine has impacted their quality of life. Described as making a noise similar to the sound of a jet hovering over one's property, the machine has not only caused sleepless nights for some and affected residents' health but also potentially impacted their homes' property values.
They described the sound as a jet hovering or an old boot tumbling in a dryer. But the noise from Falmouth's wind turbine doesn't have to be loud to be disruptive, resident Todd Drummey said last night. "A mosquito isn't loud either when you're trying to sleep," he said at a meeting in a private home located about one-third of a mile from the nearly 400-foot tall turbine that started operation in March. "It's irritating."
Opponents of the Cape Wind project are planning to launch a multi-pronged legal attack that could include a challenge to the constitutionality of a state law forcing utilities to buy much of their renewable-energy only from firms that produce power within Massachusetts. The possible legal assault, based on the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, would be in addition to opponents' already stated intent to challenge Cape Wind on alleged violations of endangered species, ocean and energy laws.
The highly touted Cape Wind project is already stoking fears of an open-ended ratepayer burden and lack of accountability reminiscent of the state's Big Dig nightmare. As the Herald reported yesterday, the Cape Wind project, which started out as a $650 million offshore wind farm, has ballooned to more than $2 billion in construction costs and a potential $6 billion hit to ratepayers when debt service, profits, maintenance and other costs are included.
The ferocious opposition from Massachusetts liberals to the Cape Wind project has provided a useful education in green energy politics. And now that the Nantucket Sound wind farm has won federal approval, this decade-long saga may prove edifying in green energy economics too: Namely, the price of electricity from wind is more than twice what consumers now pay.
Dozens of companies have developed turbines designed to supply a portion of a home or business' electricity, which has fueled a surge in small-wind turbine installations over the past three years. Now, installers and consumers are being nudged toward picking only the best locations, a shift that is being aided by the emergence of better online tools.
The controversial Cape Wind project could end up costing ratepayers as much as $6 billion over 15 years - and provide utilities with multimillion-dollar bonus incentives if they buy electricity from the planned off-shore wind farm. National Grid officially filed yesterday its proposed long-term power contract with Cape Wind - and the numbers are eye-popping.
The town of Hull is poised to reject a small offshore wind farm due to high costs that could have boosted electricity rates by up to 25 percent. Hull, which already has two land-based wind turbines and is considered a big supporter of wind energy in general, is drawing a line at building four additional wind turbines about 1.25 miles off the coast, near Nantasket Beach.
What is troubling about the opposition to the project is that many of the critics have been politicians and media figures who are all too eager to impose windmills on "the rest of us." Only when a wind project threatened to mar the views from their Massachusetts coastal property did they object. And for nine long years, they succeeded in blocking the project, saying that particular area deserved protection that other areas did not necessarily deserve.
After more than five months of negotiations, the state's largest electric utility has agreed to buy half the power generated by what could be the country's first offshore wind farm. Under the deal, National Grid will pay 20.7 cents per kilowatt hour for the power from the 130 turbines that Cape Wind Associates LLC wants to build in Nantucket Sound and for renewable energy credits associated with the project.
The current price of National Grid's non-wind electricity is now about 9 cents per kilowatt. That means the cost of fossil-fuel generated electricity would have to increase nearly four-fold just to keep pace with Cape Wind's prices over the next 15 years. "I'm glad it's your electric bills and not mine," said Robert McCullough, president of McCullough Research, an Oregon energy consulting firm, referring to Cape Wind's prices.
In a dispute this complicated - a Gordian knot of confounding alliances - perhaps it is best to ask, "Who benefits?" Or, in other words, follow the money. So, here we go: Secretary Salazar admitted at the press conference, when he announced the Obama administration's approval of Cape Wind, that "I don't know the cost of the project, but I know it will be subsidized." Um, okay, but no one can agree by whom. (Taxpayers?) When Patrick was asked about the cost of the project, he went on the record saying, "I am not being cute with you: you need to ask the developer."
State officials say electricity generated by an approved wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod could boost utility bills, but not as much as some opponents of the project predicted.
National Grid Plc, an owner of utilities in the U.S. and U.K., will seek regulatory approval to sign a contract to buy half of the power output from the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts. Under the 15-year contract, National Grid will pay 20.7 cents a kilowatt-hour for the wind power output starting in 2013, and the price will increase 3.5 percent each year, the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company said today in a statement.
An anticipated deal between utility National Grid and the controversial wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound could add from 47 cents to $1.33 to the average customer's monthly electricity bill, state officials said. Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Secretary Ian Bowles said National Grid must agree to pay somewhere between 17 cents and 21 cents per kilowatt hour for the power it buys from Cape Wind to be competitive. At that price, the 130-turbine project, which received federal approval last week, would not only rival conventional energy, it could at times in the future be cheaper.
I never thought I'd agree with a member of the Kennedy clan, but Bobby Kennedy's son got it right  when he dismissed the much-hyped Cape Wind project that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved last week. "It's a boondoggle of the worst kind," Kennedy said. "It's going to cost the people of Massachusetts $4 billion over the next 20 years in extra costs." If anything, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer, underestimated the cost of Cape Wind .
It's looking unlikely that the town of Hull will press ahead with a proposal to build four giant wind turbines in the waters off Nantasket Beach - a move that would have made the municipality self-sufficient in its power needs. "We're almost done with a financial analysis to see if we can afford to do it, and it doesn't look good,'' Richard Miller, manager of the town-owned light plant, said last week. "For people to pay more, just to have wind, doesn't make sense.''
In a big showdown over wind power, neighbors of two proposed 400-foot tall industrial wind turbines drew enough voters to town meeting to kill the town's eight-year-long push for the clean energy project. "When this matter came up eight years ago, everybody thought wind energy was a good thing," Ed McManus, chairman of the board of selectmen, told a suddenly hushed town meeting last night.