A new plan to make more than 742,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts available for commercial wind leasing has found an unlikely ally – Cape Wind’s most vocal foe.
Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Save Nantucket Sound, which has long opposed Cape Wind’s $2.6 billion project to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound, said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s plan to auction an area 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard – as well as two competitive leases already awarded off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia – “demonstrate the availability of alternative sites to Cape Wind.”
“There are clearly better alternatives – ones that won’t destroy Nantucket Sound and our budgets,” Parker said.
At a press conference yesterday in Boston, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank and Gov. Deval Patrick announced plans to auction the new Wind Energy Area – the largest in federal waters – as four leases that would nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commercial-scale wind energy projects.
“Offshore wind creates good jobs and produces clean energy,” Patrick said, noting that Cape Wind’s staging area in New Bedford already is creating jobs.
Asked whether he was dissatisfied with the pace of Cape Wind’s project, which has been more than a decade in the planning due largely to repeated legal challenges, the governor said, “It’s personally frustrating … Cape Wind, being the first, was going to take a longer time.”
“We learned lessons from what happened with Cape Wind,” Jewell said. The competitive lease sale “will reflect the extensive and productive input from a number of important stakeholders, including the commercial fishing and shipping industries,” she said. “Through sound science and true collaboration, we have identified an area best suited for offshore wind development that seeks to minimize conflicts with other important ocean uses.”
Asked whether electricity rates in Massachusetts would decrease with the introduction of offshore wind, Patrick said, “Right now, our rates go up and down because we have no control over them.” But he could not guarantee that rates would go down.
Cruickshank said there “could be a potential for hundreds” of wind turbines in the new Wind Energy Area and, depending partly on weather conditions, there could be days when they would be visible from Martha’s Vineyard.
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