September 9, 2010

Cape Wind called best way to meet state rules

By Jay Fitzgerald, Boston Herald, 9 September 2010

National Grid yesterday defended its multibillion-dollar Cape Wind contract as the best way to comply with strict new state laws requiring increased use of renewable fuels to generate electricity.

Under questioning by an attorney for Cape Wind’s main opponent, National Grid representatives said they were aware that Cape Wind’s prices were substantially higher than fossil fuels and other renewable-fuel options.

But the utility opted to sign a 15-year, $2.7 billion contract to buy power from the proposed offshore wind farm because it was the best way to comply with renewable fuel quotas designed to cut down on carbon pollution, National Grid executives said.

“We deemed this to be the best option,” said Richard Rapp, one of three National Grid executives grilled at a state Department of Public Utilities hearing on the proposed Cape Wind-National Grid electric rates.

Glenn Benson, an attorney for the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, launched a line of questioning that suggested National Grid gave preferential treatment to Cape Wind, veering away from the state’s Green Communities Act and bidding rules to give the wind-farm developer a risky and yet lucrative contract over rivals.

But Madison Milhous, a director at National Grid, said the utility concluded that Cape Wind was the only project that could provide it with a large enough amount of electricity to comply with state renewable-energy quotas.

Solar power, bio-mass and land-based wind farms simply couldn’t provide the same amount of energy as Cape Wind, which plans to build 130 turbines on Nantucket Sound, Milhous said. National Grid hopes to buy about half of Cape Wind’s power.

“We thoroughly considered all the risks,” Milhous said when Benson pressed him on the likelihood of Cape Wind not having all 130 turbines constructed on time by 2013.

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