Proponents for Cape Wind’s 130-turbine development in Nantucket Sound outnumbered opponents by almost three to one at the speaker’s microphone, at what could be the last regulatory hearing on Cape Cod for the controversial project.
More than 100 people, young and old, and many familiar faces, turned out to the state Department of Public Utilities hearing Wednesday night in the Knight Auditorium at Barnstable High School. As the hearing began, electrical union workers bused down from Boston held signs at the entrance in support of the project.
Several speakers referred to the more than 10 years of the regulatory review the project has undergone.
The hearing is the second of three being held by the state regulators who are reviewing the contract between NStar Electric and Cape Wind. The company has agreed to purchase 27 percent of Cape Wind’s power.
The deal is similar to one already approved in which National Grid agreed to purchase 50 percent of the project’s power.
The price of the electricity would start at 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour if the turbines start spinning in 2013 and rise 3.5 percent per year over the 15-year life of the contract. Federal tax credits could also affect the price of electricity.
Although the hearing officer, Jennifer Turnbull-Houde of the legal division of the Department of Public Utilities, asked people to keep their comments to three minutes, most went several minutes past that.
There were lively speeches for and against the project, and arguments made many times before.
The cost was in dispute, as were the project’s effects on the economy. Those in favor of the wind turbines said the project would eventually lower energy prices in the region and would bring hundreds of jobs. Those opposed said the NStar deal would cost Cape Codders dearly over the years in millions of dollars in extra utility costs, crippling large businesses and municipalities. Opponents also said the project would do permanent damage to the Cape’s economy.
Mark Rodgers, spokesman for Cape Wind, said the project would cost the average customer an additional $1.08 to $1.16 per month. But by virtue of “price suppression,” in which an additional power source brings down prices in the region, the result would be a savings of $7 billion in energy costs to the region annually, Mr. Rodgers said.
Mr. Rodgers also said that Cape Wind will be the first of what would be 100 similar projects off the coast of the United States over the next 20 years, creating 40,000 jobs across the country.
Proponents had colorful ways of showing their support.
One man sang his support first to the tune of the 1960s counterculture anthem “Blowin’ in the Wind” and then to the tune of “No Business Like Show Business.”
A young girl admonished her elders in the audience to work toward a healthier environment by supporting the wind turbines. With hands on her hips, she said, “Come on. Let’s do our part.”
David Moriarty of Falmouth, who recently lost a bid for a seat on that town’s board of selectmen with an anti-wind turbine platform, said the wind project would cost Cape Codders millions of dollars and could have adverse health effects.
He referred to Nantucket Sound when he yelled out, “This is our livelihood. This is everything. This project is not sustainable.”
Other longtime opponents like Cliff Carroll, who attended Barnstable High School 35 years ago, said they had been fighting the project for 10 years. “This project never will be built,” he said.
Eric R. Steinhilber of Barnstable read a letter from Ian Parent, the owner of La Petite France Cafe, saying the wind farm would ruin small businesses like his with increased energy costs.
But others, like George Bachrach of Barnstable, who is president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said the hundreds of construction workers who are needed to build the turbines would need to have lunch, so businesses like Mr. Parent’s could do very well.
Audra Parker, president of the Alliance To Protect Nantucket Sound, the lead opponent of the project, said higher electricity rates would cost the Town of Barnstable $1 million over the life of the contract.
Barnstable Town Councilor Janet Joakim of Centerville said the town is not against renewable energy, but Cape Wind will cost residents, both as taxpayers and as ratepayers.
Jamie Regan, a realtor in Mashpee, said the project has already affected property values and the project’s blinking lights will ruin the ambiance of the region.
But predications of doom and gloom were met with predications of a sunny economic future for the region. Joel Whitman, who attended Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School and is now the CEO of a company that installs sea cables, said the project would not only bring good jobs to the region but local high school students could be trained to get those jobs.
The Reverend William Eddy, pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Barnstable Village, said there are thousands of locals in favor of the project.
Annie Meyer, 19, who grew up in Falmouth and now attends Boston College, said Cape Wind is a necessary step toward dealing with dire environmental issues that could destroy the Cape. “These turbines will be the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road for an entire year.” she said, noting that the rising sea levels resulting from global warming could destroy the Cape. “I want to know that my children and even grandchildren will be able to enjoy what I once treasured,” she said.
Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 30, at 7 PM at the Department of Public Utilities, 1 South Station, fifth floor, in Boston.