Some of Cape Wind’s biggest critics ironically won’t have to foot the bill for the $2 billion wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
In an odd twist to the decade-long fight over the controversial offshore energy project, those farthest away from the planned wind farm will often have to pay its higher electric bills – while many of the most vocal opponents closest to the project will get a financial pass.
The reason: National Grid, which has signed a multibillion-dollar power deal to buy half of Cape Wind’s future electricity, doesn’t cover Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.
National Grid’s main coverage areas for its 1.2 million customers lie in western and central Massachusetts, the North Shore and parts of the South Shore well north of the Cape Cod Canal.
The only part of the Cape and the Islands that’s covered by National Grid is Nantucket.
Nstar, the state’s second-largest utility, covers the mainland Cape and Vineyard, as well as many parts of the South Shore and Greater Boston.
And Nstar has signaled it has no intention of buying electricity from Cape Wind, whose initial prices could be twice as high as the current cost of electricity from other sources.
“It’s a bizarre situation,” said Robert Rio, senior vice president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “People out there in the western areas (of Massachusetts) aren’t really aware they’ll be impacted.”
Actually, they’re slowly becoming aware – and they’re split over the burden that will fall on them to pay for Cape Wind’s power.
“There is a real concern out here,” said David McKeehan, president of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and head of the North Central Massachusetts Economic Development Council. “This is going to be an added cost of doing business for many of our members.”
National Grid’s Cape Wind contract, which is now being reviewed by state regulators, could add thousands of dollars a month to a manufacturer’s electric bill, based on National Grid’s own rate estimates.
“About 1 out of 4 people out here work in some way in manufacturing,” said McKeehan, whose groups represent National Grid customers in Leominster, Ayer, Clinton, Pepperell and five other central Massachusetts communities.
But not all businesses are upset.
Tom Clay, chief executive of Xtalic Corp. in Marlboro, said some business owners accept Cape Wind’s higher costs as the price the state has to pay for cleaner and more reliable energy.
“I’m of the opinion we have to lean green” said Clay, whose electronic-materials firm is a National Grid customer.
McKeehan and Clay agree on one thing: It hasn’t quite sunk in yet with many National Grid customers in central and western Massachusetts that they’ll be paying for Cape Wind.
“The awareness is low,” said Clay. “It’s comes across as a Cape Cod issue, but it’s not.”
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