NATICK – Proponents of the Cape Wind offshore wind project testified last night that the plan would create jobs and help reduce dependence on fossil fuels, while opponents argued that NStar’s idea to purchase electricity from the turbines would cost residents and businesses billions of dollars in rate hikes.
State Rep. Thomas Sannicandro, D-Ashland, said the 130-turbine project would create 600 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs while providing clean energy.
Sannicandro told about 60 people gathered at a state Department of Public Utilities hearing at Town Hall that the state needs to “put our money where our mouth is and really step up to the plate.”
But Natick Town Meeting member Mike Linehan said the price of natural gas has been dropping and there are ample supplies. A pipeline from the Midwest could be built cheaper and be as reliable as the Cape Wind proposal, he said.
“There’s no stopping the tide of renewable energy, but it should make sense economically,” said Linehan.
NStar is seeking approval from the state to enter into a long-term contract with Cape Wind in which NStar will purchase 27.5 percent of Cape Wind’s estimated total output, or up to a maximum of 129 megawatts per year over the 15-year contract, Hearing Officer Jennifer Turnbull-Houde said.
If the contract is approved, NStar estimated the bill of an average residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month would increase by $1.16 per month, or 1.3 percent, in 2013, according to state documents.
The contract price would escalate by 3.5 percent each year, Turnbull-Houde said.
Natick residents and businesses would have to pay $14 million over the length of the contract while affected ratepayers statewide would have to pay $4 billion, said Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which has opposed the project.
“This alliance urges the DPU to reject the NStar-Cape Wind project for the simple reason it’s too expensive for Massachusetts ratepayers,” Parker said. “The cost to towns throughout Massachusetts would be devastating.”
Parker said it would be more difficult for businesses to prosper and make it harder for the state to attract new companies, resulting in the loss of more jobs than the project would create.
Mark Rodgers, communications director for private developer Cape Wind, said the increase would be less than ratepayers have previously faced with volatile fuel prices.
The 3.5 percent annual increase is only on electricity supplied by Cape Wind, not a ratepayer’s entire bill, he said.
State Rep. Thomas Conroy, D-Wayland, said the project will over the long-term save ratepayers money as the price of fossil fuel continues to rise, outweighing any short-term costs.
“By embracing Cape Wind, we are embracing the future,” Conroy said.
The project would generate enough electricity to power 500,000 homes. It would be the country’s first off-shore wind farm, putting the state in a position to be a leader in the field, Conroy said.
Natick resident Nancy Quinlan said she worried about the effect the project would have on birds, saying she has read about birds being killed as a result of wind projects in other parts of the country.
“There’s more to the environment than oil, gas (and) water,” Quinlan said. “There are creatures that really deserve to be here.”
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