Vineyard Gazette: State Energy Bill Seen as Boost for Offshore Power, Setback for Cape Wind

August 5, 2016

Vineyard Gazette: State Energy Bill Seen as Boost for Offshore Power, Setback for Cape Wind
By Alex Elvin, August 5, 2016

A landmark energy bill that passed in the final hours of the legislative session on Sunday opens the door to offshore wind energy developers, but prevents the embattled Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound from competing for state-required energy contracts.

The bill requires utility companies in the state to buy up to 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind energy over the next 10 years, making it the largest commitment of its kind in the country. The companies must also purchase up to 1,200 megawatts of hydropower or other renewable energy.

Four developers have planted their flags in federal waters around Vineyard, including a partnership between OffshoreMW and Vineyard Power, the Island energy cooperative. But the bill limits the new contracts to companies whose projects are at least 10 miles from shore and who acquired federal leases in a competitive process after Jan. 1, 2012. That excludes Cape Wind, which pioneered the U.S. offshore wind market beginning around 2001 with its plan for turbines on Horseshoe Shoal, an area of state water in Nantucket Sound surrounded by federal waters. Cape Wind never got off the ground and has been sidelined by lawsuits over the years.

Cape Wind president Jim Gordon said this week that he plans to press forward despite the recent setback. “Our company will evaluate our options for Cape Wind and continue our ongoing efforts of implementing a variety of clean energy solutions,” he said in a written statement.

But the path forward is unclear. Early last year, Eversource Energy and National Grid (the only regulated utilities in the state) severed contracts with Cape Wind after the company missed a key financing deadline. The company fought the decisions, claiming “force majeure,” or an act of God, in light of relentless litigation. (Cape Wind lists 32 court cases filed by opponents of the wind farm as of 2014, with 26 rulings in favor of the company and five cases withdrawn.)

“The public perception is that the development is dead,” said Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a nonprofit based in Hyannis that has worked tirelessly to scuttle the project through lawsuits and public campaigns. “But the developer continues to be as persistent and tenacious, I suppose, as we are.”

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Reprinted via the Vineyard Gazette - the News Service is not affiliated with the Alliance.