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Cape Wind’s inconvenient economics  

For years, residents of Cape Cod and the Islands have been promised that the Cape Wind project would lower their electricity rates. Remember: “The Wind is Free?”

Apparently this is no longer true since Cape Wind has stopped promising to save us money on electricity. While developer Jim Gordon and his spokesman, Mark Rodgers, will not directly answer the question about saving consumers money, they have publicly admitted that their “picture has changed,” even though they have allowed that misleading view to remain on the Cape Wind Web site.

The snapshot of savings was based on the practice of selling electricity into the wholesale spot market. Cape Wind used a study that projects the cost of fossil fuels versus allegedly free wind. This study was biased because it looked at only benefits and not the relevant costs. Furthermore, it became obsolete just months after it was done. Yet, Cape Wind still uses the spot market model and La Capra Study as justification for its long-held claim of lowering our electric bills.

Cape Wind’s cost will not be based on the wholesale spot market model; rather, it will come from what’s known as a power-purchase agreement with a utility. The resulting costs will be well above the wholesale market since a utility such as NStar or Cape Light Compact will need to cover all of its costs and pass them along to their consumers.

According to the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the federal Minerals Management Service, Cape Wind’s electricity would cost more than double the spot market. Backing that up is the fact that all major offshore wind farms in this country have been stopped due to high energy costs that would be passed along to consumers. U.S. offshore wind plants are simply not economically viable, in contrast to some in Europe, where costs are based on huge government subsidies. Note that the citizens of Denmark, whose wind farms have become the poster child for Cape Wind, pay the highest electricity rates in the world.

While many people seem to support the sacrifice of open spaces in the face of global warming, they might not if they had the facts and understood the paucity of benefits.

If the argument for Cape Wind’s necessity further depends on its ability to combat climate change then that premise must be proven by the developer. Weighing benefits versus costs seems to be based on the assumption that benefits are infinite and that costs are trumped by necessity. If human-caused CO2 is the most significant threat to biodiversity on our planet, then it remains to be seen just how Cape Wind would actually help affect the situation.

Meanwhile, it has been shown that enormous wind farms such as that proposed by Cape Wind kill thousands of protected birds and bats including endangered species. Those costs are real and documented, whereas the benefits are not.

In fact, energy efficiency (which kills no one) has been held up by the Kyoto Protocol as the best strategy to reduce greenhouse gases and global warming. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts also recognizes this with its new energy bill. It provides financial incentives to improve efficiency and reduce demand and CO2, favoring efficiency over the building of new power plants. The bill also promotes direct citizen involvement with incentives for solar panels and roof-top or small backyard wind turbines.

If each of us determinedly practiced energy conservation and planted a tree or two on our property, we could do more to reduce global warming than Gordon’s wind plant. And we wouldn’t ruin Nantucket Sound in the process.
So I call on Mr. Gordon to simply answer the question: Is the wind still free?

By Dona Tracy

Dona Tracy is founding director of Wildcare Inc./Hudson Valley Raptor Center, a research, education, hospital and sanctuary devoted to birds of prey. She is a resident of Barnstable.

The Cape Codder

21 February 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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