November 17, 2012

Hull’s offshore wind farm project in jeopardy

By Neal Simpson | The Patriot Ledger |

HULL – A study is casting serious doubt about a proposal to build a series of wind turbines 11/2 miles off the coast of Nantasket Beach.

Officials have been studying the feasibility of constructing four or five offshore wind turbines, enough to power the entire town under ideal wind conditions. But the project has been on hold for several years, and a recent report suggests it may be too expensive and generate too little revenue to make it worthwhile.

“We’re discovering now that it’s a tremendously expensive project,” said Patrick Cannon, chairman of the Hull Municipal Light Plant’s board of commissioners. “My gut feeling is no, we’re not going to be able to do it.”

The report, which was presented to the town in October, pegged the cost of a 3- to 5-megawatt project at around $105 million. It said the project has become more challenging as the cost of offshore turbine construction climbs and energy market revenues falls.

“It’s become clearer that there’s a very daunting set of challenges,” Town Manager Philip Lemnios said.

Hull officials have discussed the possibility of an offshore wind farm since at least 2003. The Hull Municipal Light Plant received a $1.7 million grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to study the feasibility of the project in 2006 and secured a $951,000 congressional earmark in 2009.

Ian Bowles, secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, gave the project initial state approval in 2008, but Cannon, the light board chairman, said the town eventually put the project on hold because it needed more information before proceeding.

“We were at a point where we needed a really reliable report on what the actual costs would be, and to sharpen up all those figures,” he said. “So we put it on the back burner until we could get that information.”

The light board is expected to consider the recent report’s findings and make a decision on the future of the project at a public meeting in January.

See a rendering and video simulation of the project on Hull’s town website.

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