Cape Wind’s two main power purchasers have backed out of a deal to buy electricity from its yet-to-be built 130-turbine project on Nantucket Sound.
Utilities NStar and National Grid notified Cape Wind via email on Tuesday, according to Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers. Both companies – which had agreed to buy 27.5 and 50 percent of the wind farm’s total output respectively – claim that Cape Wind missed a deadline of Dec. 31 to have its financing in order.
Meanwhile, in letters to the two utilities sent out on Dec. 31, Cape Wind President James Gordon said the company was beset by excessive litigation at several steps during the project’s 14-year effort to get off the ground. The wind company should be freed from the Dec. 31 obligation, Gordon posits, because of the litigation, which he refers to as a “force majeure,” or an unplanned and unavoidable occurrence, that’s outlined in the contracts between Cape Wind and its power purchasers.
Rodgers said it is this “force majeure” clause in the contracts with the utilities that renders the terminations as invalid.
In an email to the Patriot on Wednesday, Rodgers couldn’t say what the next step for Cape Wind will be.
“All I can say right now is that we are determined to supply our power to this supply-constrained region and that we will pursue every option available to us,” said Rodgers. “It would be a travesty if delays caused by an interest group funded by one of the Koch brothers could stop a project that would make Massachusetts a leader in offshore wind and create good jobs and help mitigate climate change.”
Rodgers is referring to the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, arguably the most vocal opponent of the wind farm project. William Koch, the oil magnate, billionaire and resident of Osterville, is an alliance board member. However, the alliance does include a number of preservationist groups as allies and/or concerned parties, including the Barnstable Land Trust, Three Bays Preservation and the Oceans Public Trust Initiative, among others.
The alliance issued a statement on its website after the pullouts were announced.
“The decision by NStar and National Grid to end their contracts with Cape Wind is a fatal or near-fatal blow to this expensive and outdated project,” the alliance said. “It’s very bad news for Cape Wind, but very good news for Massachusetts ratepayers, who will save billions of dollars in electric bills.”
Further, the alliance said the federal offshore lease should be revoked and that Nantucket Sound be named a national marine sanctuary.
NStar – which provides electricity to the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard – said Wednesday that it had been fully committed to the turbine project, provided that Cape Wind was on track to meet the end-of-December deadline for financing and the start of construction.
“Unfortunately, Cape Wind has missed these critical milestones. Additionally, Cape Wind has chosen not to exercise their right to post financial security in order to extend the contract deadlines. Therefore the contract is now terminated,” said NStar spokesman Michael Durand in an email.
Durand said that the contract between NStar and Cape Wind specifically includes such milestones “so projects that are unable to move forward do not burden customers for long periods of time in a high-priced market environment due to lack of supply.”
National Grid – which supplies power to Nantucket – issued a similar statement Wednesday outlining why it wanted out from the Cape Wind deal.
“National Grid is disappointed that Cape Wind has been unable to meet its commitments under the contract, resulting in (Tuesday’s) termination of the power-purchase agreement,” National Grid spokesman Jake Navarro said. “We still believe the solution to New England’s energy challenge is a diversity of energy sources, which is why we support renewable projects consistent with our goal of reducing emissions while minimizing the cost impact on our customers.”
Navarro said his company “will continue to pursue other renewable options, including solar, competitively priced on- and offshore wind, and other technologies as they become available.”
NStar and National Grid spokesmen would not say whether the decisions to pull out of the deal were made together; Cape Wind’s Rodgers said the email notifications came within minutes of one another.
The project has been under constant legal challenges and scrutiny since it was aired some 14 years ago. Even still, Cape Wind officials had remained stalwart in the hopes that the project would come to fruition. Even as recently as March, Cape Wind said that it had intentions of producing power as soon as mid-2016.
Prior to that, the company said it had planned to start construction on the sound in 2015. Earlier company statements were just as hopeful: Among the first was a quote from Cape Wind chief Gordon in 2001 that the wind farm “could be producing energy sometime in 2005.”
As the power-purchase agreements were being hashed out, the alliance decried the deal as being strong-armed into place by former Gov. Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama, who are friends.
The alliance also maintained that the deal was too expensive for the ratepayers and that it could be purchased through other sources for far less money.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding