Massachusetts’ Affordable Energy Prospects Are Blowing In the Wind

April 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

By Larry Bell

Governor Deval Patrick’s new deal to blow costly subsidies on a breezy wind farm off Nantucket Sound has leading green energy proponents purple with rage. And these aren’t just your usual run of the windmill anti-carbon crusaders and environmental activist organizations.

Acting upon the legislature’s Green Communities Act of 2000 requiring that 20% of the state’s power come from renewable sources by 2025, the 130-turbine Cape Wind project threatens to obstruct the pristine ocean view of that elite one percent of greedy rich coastal residents the other 99 percent are presumed to loathe.

What true “environmentalists” could possibly object to non-polluting wind power that will help save our planet from the dreaded climate-ravaging fossil-emitted CO2 scourge? Some of their names should be quite familiar to you. One, for example, is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nephew of a popular president and prominent lawyer for the powerful Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). His uncle, the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), along with Senate colleague and fellow Nantucket resident John Kerry, didn’t want Cape Wind disturbing their vistas either.

Senator Kerry explained his reasons this way: “I’ve always said that I think Senator Kennedy has raised very legitimate issues with respect to the siting process and with respect to location. I’ve also suggested that it’s my opinion there may be even better locations for it. I’ve sat with Jim Gordon [president of Cape Wind], I’ve sat with other folks, I’ve met with Coast Guard people. I’ve tried to do due diligence on it, and I’m not sure there aren’t both windier and, you know, more accessible areas.”

In other words, it’s not that the Senator doesn’t like wind power. He just doesn’t want it located off his beach.

Sound familiar?

Governor Patrick helped blow life into Cape Wind by approving a merger of two local utilities, NStar and Northeast Utilities of Connecticut, creating a new company that must purchase 27.5% of their output from the project. The $17.5 billion agreement also requires that Cape Wind freeze its rates for the next five years and distribute a one-time rebate of $21 million ($13 per capita) to the customers. But since Cape Wind construction hasn’t yet begun, the freeze on electricity prices will lapse by the time NStar starts purchasing the power.

The Boston Globe reports that the deal won’t come cheap, either for NStar, or for its customers. Based upon a 15-year contract filed with state regulators last Friday, the starting price for power Cape Wind produces will be more than double the cost of conventional Massachusetts electricity. While utilities generally pay about 8 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity rather than the 18.7 cents Cape Wind will charge, they caved in following nearly a year of negotiations with state energy officials.

According to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Robert Kennedy Jr., NStar had experienced years of intense state political pressure before agreeing to the Cape Wind power purchases. Their CEO Tom May had argued that such a contract would impose too large a burden on their ratepayers. In order to certify with the green-power requirements, NStar had previously contracted with far less expensive land-based wind-power suppliers.

Offshore wind installations are very costly to build and maintain, second only to solar thermal. Customers who chose to purchase the “NStar 100” option (with a theoretical 100% of their electricity coming from the Maple Ridge wind farm in upstate New York and Kirby Wind Power in Maine) already saw their current 4.791 cent per kWh premiums rise by 33% to 6.39 cent per kWh on March 1.

In case you’re wondering, former Governor Mitt Romney opposed Cape Wind …not because he doesn’t like wind power, but because it would depress property values and damage the local economy which depends heavily on tourism. Project supporters accused him and federal lawmakers of “back-door deal-making” to kill the project.

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