HYANNIS – It’s all been said before. Many times.
Cape Wind opponents: It will ruin Nantucket Sound.
Wind farm supporters: The 130-turbine project will combat climate change and kick-start a clean energy industry.
Some proponents, such as Berl Hartman, say Cape Wind will create good jobs and draw eco-tourists eager for a look at the country’s future.
“It makes extremely good business sense from all perspectives,” Hartman, co-founder and director of the New England chapter of Environmental Entrepreneurs, said Wednesday during the second to last of scores of hearings held over the past decade to take public comment on the controversial project.
Others, meanwhile, say the project will kill tourism on Cape Cod and the Islands and decimate fishermen who work on the Sound.
“We do not need this particular project to save the planet,” said Patty Dineen, a member of the anti-Cape Wind group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
Dineen and other opponents also believe the above-market costs of the project’s power will put small companies out of business.
And yet fans of the project point out that electricity from Cape Wind will add only about a dollar to the average residential bill and drive electricity prices down across New England.
“Paying $12 a year to change the way America looks at its energy future seems a small price to pay,” said the Rev. William Eddy of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Barnstable.
During the last public hearing on Cape Wind to take place on Cape Cod, speakers inside Knight Auditorium at Barnstable High School sang, shouted and read poems. Laborers – many bused in from off-Cape – held signs proclaiming “yes” to Cape Wind outside the building and members of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound wore lanyards showing their opposition to the project.
More than 100 people attended the hearing, the second of three being held by the state Department of Public Utilities to take public comment on an agreement between NStar and Cape Wind for more than a quarter of the project’s power. The final public hearing on the deal and the project will be held Wednesday in Boston. The DPU has already approved a nearly identical agreement between Cape Wind and National Grid for half of the project’s power and is expected to give NStar’s purchase of Cape Wind’s power the green light.
The utility, which delivers electricity on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and in other parts of the state, would pay about 19 cents per kilowatt-hour for Cape Wind’s power if it was to begin operations in 2013.
The cost of the power will increase by 3.5 percent per year under the contract and the cost will increase if federal tax credits for offshore wind production and investment are not renewed.
NStar estimates that its average residential customer who uses 618 kilowatt-hours per month will pay an additional $1.44 on a monthly bill for Cape Wind’s electricity in the first year of operation. The costs of the project will be offset by Cape Wind’s impact on the New England energy market through a mechanism known as price suppression by which the wind farm’s power knocks more expensive power out of the market, company spokesman Mark Rodgers said.
“Some will say any increase in a bill at all is not worth it, it’s a waste of money,” Rodgers said, adding that such a mind-set is shortsighted.
Once the offshore wind energy industry in the United States picks up steam, the price will come down dramatically, he said.
Cape Wind’s detractors pointed out that, over the life of the 15-year contract, the additional cost of the project’s power over other sources of energy will equal almost $4 billion. They argued that businesses which use far more power than residential customers will pay exponentially more and pass those costs along to consumers.
“Stand up for ratepayers and reject this grossly overpriced contract,” said Audra Parker, president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
NStar was forced to buy Cape Wind’s power as part of a merger with Northeast Utilities that the state recently approved, Parker said.
Parker and other opponents of Cape Wind were outnumbered, however, by the project’s supporters who spoke at Thursday’s hearing.
“Cape Wind has been talked about and a part of my life since I was 10 years old,” said Anne Meyer, 19, a Boston College student who grew up in Falmouth.
Climate change may already be irreversible, Meyer said.
“We need every project possible at this point,” she said.
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