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New England turbine project may dwarf Cape Wind

Move over, Cape Wind.

A larger and more expensive wind farm than the controversial Cape Wind project is proposed for an area off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind, which has previously proposed building up to eight turbines, yesterday unveiled ambitious plans to build as many as 200 turbines in deep federal waters south of the two states.

The $4 billion to $5 billion project, which needs both federal and state approvals, would be located about 15 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard and 15 miles southeast of Block Island.

Deepwater’s plan displaces the $2 billion, 130-turbine Cape Wind as the nation’s largest proposed offshore wind farm.

“We decided to go ahead with it to take advantage of the economies of scale (of a larger project),” said Bill Moore, CEO of the New Jersey-based Deepwater Wind.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island officials had expected Deepwater Wind and others to build possibily large wind farms along their shared coasts, prompting an agreement earlier this year between the two states to cooperate on such projects.

Deepwater had previously signaled its big plans for the area, but yesterday upped the ante by proposing 200 turbines, with a peak generating capacity of 1,000 megawatts, or enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

Moore said his project is shooting to charge electricity customers about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, less than the 18.7 cents charged by Cape Wind, which hopes to start construction next year. Deepwater wants to start building its turbines by 2014.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s energy and environmental secretary, Ian Bowles, a big supporter of clean-energy projects, said the administration looks forward to getting more details about Deepwater Wind’s plan. He indicated the administration was pleased with the expansion of wind-farm proposals.

“Offshore wind is not just an enormous renewable energy resource but also a new industry in the making,” Bowles said in a statement.

Not so pleased was the head of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a major critic of Cape Wind. “We have the same concerns about costs,” said alliance executive director Audra Parker.