Following the saga of Cape Wind has been nothing if not amusing. Since 1999 when he first hired an engineering firm to survey likely sites in Nantucket Sound, Boston energy developer Jim Gordon has been dogged in his pursuit of profit. Make no mistake, for Jim Gordon, Cape Wind is about the biggest score of his already rich life. If achieving his goal means making claims about environmental motives or even about saving electric ratepayers money, so be it. Whether such claims can be proved is another matter. Unbiased inquiry into the facts of Cape Wind do not support any value to the project other than its profit to Mr. Gordon. Perhaps the most serious false claim in behalf of Cape Wind is that it will bring jobs to Massachusetts. New Bedford is the unfortunate setting for this claim.
Claiming that he had committed to using a Massachusetts company, Mass Tank of Middleboro, to manufacture the enormous steel foundations for Cape Wind, Gordon made bold public announcements about the hundreds of jobs his project would bring to a proposed marine industrial park in New Bedford. Mass Tank worked diligently to establish a partnership with a German firm, EEW, to fabricate the giant steel tubes, monopiles, which would be driven into the floor of Nantucket Sound and rise 150 feet above the surface of the sound to support 130 massive wind turbines. It turns out the deal was too good to be true for both Mass Tank and New Bedford. Anyone with even a basic understanding of such things should have known from the outset that something did not smell right about New Bedford’s role.
What Mass Tank executives found when they toured actual monopile manufacturing facilities in Europe is that rolling and then staging the enormous monopile sections requires considerably more ground than the meager 10 acres of the proposed New Bedford site. Even if sections of monopiles were rolled in Europe and shipped to New Bedford, 10 acres would still be much too small an area for the necessary subsequent work. Cape Wind will require 130 monopiles, each section of each one between 16 and 18 feet in diameter and 80 to more than 100 feet long. But, this was never a problem, as it seems clear now that Cape Wind’s claims were more for effect than for real. And, New Bedford took the bait.
Then Jim Gordon showed his true self. Late last spring he notified Mass Tank that he was canceling his “deal” with them. He is, in fact, and apparently was for some time, dealing directly with EEW. Now Cape Wind’s claim is that they might be able to use New Bedford but that a former naval facility in Rhode Island or even a former shipyard in Quincy are also under consideration. Both of these sites are far better suited to Cape Wind’s needs than the small parcel available in New Bedford, but didn’t the New Bedford deal sound great? Mass Tank and New Bedford have something in common: they were both used as bait to lure more support for Cape Wind. There is that word bait again.
Both New Bedford and Mass Tank deserve better, but in my opinion they are both better off not having Cape Wind in their lives, as we would all be.
Peter A. Kenney lives in Yarmouth.