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Cape Wind project is dealt another setback

The Cape Wind energy project suffered another big blow on Tuesday when a state agency recommended that the developer’s request to extend its permit for two power lines for the proposed offshore wind farm be denied.

A spokesman for Cape Wind Associates noted that this represents the Energy Facilities Siting Board staff’s “tentative decision” and that the board is scheduled to act on that recommendation next week.

Cape Wind had sought to extend a permit for the proposed power lines for two additional years, through May 1, 2017. Cape Wind, which wants to build as many as 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound, filed its extension request just weeks before its permit was set to expire last May.

On Tuesday, the board’s presiding officer wrote that Cape Wind Associates has not been able to demonstrate that it will be able to start construction on the project by mid-2017. In particular, the likelihood of project construction has seemed more distant since the developer lost two key contracts with National Grid and Eversource Energy in early 2015.

Pending state legislation encouraging offshore wind development is the only option for Cape Wind to get new long-term contracts, presiding officer James Buckley wrote. But there’s no guarantee that the legislation will pass, and if it does become law, there’s no guarantee that Cape Wind would win the bidding process that the bill establishes, Buckley wrote.

“At this time, Cape Wind needs a lengthy, almost open-ended extension period,” Buckley wrote. “An open-ended extension would be unreasonable.”

Buckley wrote that the developer should be required to come back to the board with a new permit request and start the process anew.