December 29, 2010

Feds eye more ocean leases off Cape for turbine projects

By Jay Fitzgerald, Boston Herald, 29 December 2010

The Obama administration has stuck a huge “for lease” sign in vast swaths of federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Working closely with Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration, the U.S. Interior Department yesterday announced the launch of a regulatory process intended to eventually site enough offshore wind turbines to produce up to 4,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 1.7 million homes in Massachusetts.

By comparison, the highly controversial Cape Wind project – with 130 turbines located in Nantucket Sound, between Cape Cod and the Islands – is expected to produce about 468 megawatts.

The recently unveiled Deepwater Wind project, about 15 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard, would have 200 turbines and produce about 1,000 megawatts.

The latest ocean area eyed for offshore wind development covers 3,000 square miles of federal waters located about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Officials say future turbines would be so far out to sea that they won’t be seen from land.

But the potential projects are already raising concerns among Cape and Island residents that their seashores are becoming an expensive and vast industrial ground for wind turbines.

“What are the cost implications?” said Audra Parker, president of a Cape Wind opposition group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, noting that Cape Wind electricity is expected to cost at least twice as much as conventional power. “It’s more of the same. It’s all about costs and siting.”

Ian Bowles, Patrick’s outgoing secretary of energy and the environment, countered that critics of Cape Wind have long advocated deep-water wind farms over Cape Wind.

“This is what they’ve championed for years,” he said. “It’s what they wanted.”

But it appears Cape Wind opponents will get both the Cape Wind project and a multitude of other offshore wind developments, assuming the feds ultimately lease much of the ocean areas south of the islands.

Bowles, known for his aggressive push for clean-energy projects, said wind energy is the future.

“Let there be no question that Massachusetts is, and will be, the nation’s offshore wind leader – spurring technological innovation and technology to reduce costs and improve performance,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement yesterday issued a “request for interest” in the leasing of federal waters for offshore wind farms.

After hearing back from potential developers and those with concerns, the feds would then seek bids for wind farms.

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