For millions of Massachusetts residents worried about soaring electric bills, the destruction of Nantucket Sound, the loss of commercial fishing and tourism, and the desecration of tribal land – in other words, all of us opposed to Cape Wind – the tide is turning.
Ten years after this controversial project was first proposed, it still faces numerous financial and legal hurdles. The reality that Cape Wind is an unaffordable boondoggle is setting in, not just here on Cape Cod and the Islands, but throughout Massachusetts, on Wall Street and in Washington. No private investor looking at this project and its high cost has yet stepped forward to finance it. And just recently the U.S. Department of Energy pulled back on a loan guarantee to Cape Wind, a sure sign that confidence in the project’s viability is dwindling and the project is nowhere near reality.
Cape Wind is struggling to find a customer for the remaining 50 percent of its costly power. No utility, even in the face of crushing political pressure, is interested when the same green power from other sources is available for less. NStar, for example, sought competitive bids and signed fixed-price contracts with three onshore wind projects for under 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. National Grid, by contrast, signed a no-bid deal with Cape Wind starting at 19 cents per kilowatt-hour. With a 3.5 percent guaranteed annual increase, the contract results in an outrageous price of 30 cents per kilowatt-hour in the final year. At an average price of 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, National Grid will pay an average of 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, 2.5 times NStar’s price, saddled on the backs of state households and businesses.
The other significant problem for Cape Wind and potential investors concerned about risk is the 10 lawsuits facing this flawed project. At the state level, four parties – a trade organization of 6,000 Massachusetts employers, a company selling cheaper green energy, an association of power generators throughout New England, and our group – have legally challenged the outrageous cost of Cape Wind’s contract with National Grid.
At the federal level, six lawsuits have been filed against the Department of Interior, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Coast Guard and other agencies. Plaintiffs include environmental groups across the U.S., Martha’s Vineyard commercial fishermen, the town of Barnstable, and the Barnstable Municipal Airport.
Opposition to Cape Wind is clearly strong and growing as the public increasingly realizes it doesn’t want to foot the bill for this ill-fated project and sees a pattern of broken promises.
Cape Wind told us it would save ratepayers money. In reality, Cape Wind would cost ratepayers well over $2 billion more. It trivializes this massive rate increase by stating the average household would pay only $1.50 more per month, but this ignores the bulk of the cost, which would be heaped on already struggling businesses, and ultimately consumers, through increased costs of goods and services.
Cape Wind claimed it would provide 75 percent of Cape Cod’s electricity needs. But Cape Wind’s contract is with National Grid, which doesn’t provide electricity to Cape Cod.
Cape Wind will supposedly create local jobs. But with contracts with Siemens, DNV and other European companies, virtually all the jobs creating these turbines would be in Germany, Norway and Denmark.
Cape Wind said it would build its staging facility in Rhode Island, until Gov. Patrick announced Cape Wind would create local jobs by moving it to Massachusetts. The problem? Cape Wind has told each state it will get the project.
Cape Wind told Yarmouth it would not build during the summer season and signed a contractual commitment to this. But now? According to the Department of Justice, the company wants to start landfall construction in the middle of summer.
For 10 long years we have listened to Cape Wind’s rhetoric. But let our history with this private developer be a lesson to us and encourage us to fight even harder. Let us continue to challenge it at every turn, because it has picked the wrong place to put 130 massive steel towers. The project will raise electric rates, desecrate sacred tribal land, disrupt wildlife, fishing, tourism, boating and aviation, and despoil Nantucket Sound – but only if we allow it.
Cape Wind will ultimately fail. Innovation and the marketplace have presented better and cheaper solutions – ones ratepayers can afford. And if it’s not any one of the multiple lawsuits that stops Cape Wind, the project’s high costs will be the final nail in the coffin.
Audra Parker is president and chief executive officer of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
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