By Jack Coleman
CUMMAQUID - Cape Wind CEO Jim Gordon has asked financial advisers to consider ways of letting local residents invest in the nation's first offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Clean Power Now wind power advocacy group on Saturday, Gordon described the plan in response to a question about possible public ownership of the project, as done in Europe.
Ownership cooperatives in Europe, Gordon said, are typically done for arrays of wind turbines numbering less than a dozen and costing up to $20 million.
With the shift to larger offshore wind farms in Europe over the last decade, "people in the energy industry are building these projects under conventional energy project financing," Gordon said. In the 15 months between the polls, "we [CPN] have managed to effect a change in public opinion on the watershed event for renewable energy for our country," Palmer said. "And that is a tremendous accomplishment."
Gordon on funding
But Gordon said he has asked Lehman Brothers, the financial services company hired by Cape Wind last month, to study possible co-op style funding for the project, at least in part. This might be done, Gordon said, through "pension funds or socially responsible mutual funds."
"There are different ways and they are going to look at a range of them," Gordon said.
Leading the financing effort for Cape Wind at Lehman Brothers is Theodore Roosevelt IV, great-grandson of the 26th president and a summer resident of Chappaquiddick.
Gordon was the keynote speaker at Clean Power Now's annual meeting, which drew about 100 people to the Cummaquid Golf Club.
The next step
The next step in the process for Cape Wind is release of a final environmental impact report from the US Army Corps of Engineers sometime this year. Gordon said he is hoping for a decision on a permit from the Corps by the end of this year or in early 2006.
Gordon said he has spent $22 million so far on the project and "we haven't gotten a dime of government money." The project would cost an estimated $700 to $800 million in its entirety.
If built, Cape Wind would receive a federal production tax credit of about $27 million annually for 10 years, but only if the credit is extended after the end of the year.
The project would also be able to sell renewable energy credits to utilities for producing a non-polluting source of electricity, as provided by the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (the value of these credits to Cape Wind was not immediately available, but previous published reports put their value at millions annually).
Gordon told Clean Power Now members that he expects to finance the Cape Wind project "through a mix of commercial bank debt, capital marketing debt (bonds) and equity."
Earlier in the meeting, CPN Executive Director Matt Palmer recounted last month's trip to Denmark and praised the group's accomplishments over the last year.
CPN's membership more than doubled in that time, from 2,300 to 4,700 people, and new chapters were added in Boston, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
The group also raised public awareness of the Cape Wind project and dispelled many false claims by opponents, Palmer said.
This shift in public perceptions could be seen in the most recent polling on Cape Wind, as reported last week in the Cape Cod Times.
The pollster described supporters and opponents evenly split in a "dead heat," with opponents drawing 39 percent to 37 percent for supporters, and the remaining 24 percent undecided and a 4-percent margin of error.
A poll commissioned by the Times last year showed a 55-45 percent split with opponents ahead, undecideds not included and the same margin of error.
In the 15 months between the polls, "we have managed to effect a change in public opinion on the watershed event for renewable energy for our country," Palmer said. "And that is a tremendous accomplishment."
The year in review
Other highlights of the last year, Palmer said, included distributing 100,000 fliers, a second trip to Denmark, releasing the "Change of Course" video, hosting authors Lester Brown and Ross Gelbspan last summer, hiring more staff, expanded fundraising and a redesigned website.
Perhaps the group's most important accomplishment of the last year, Palmer said, was in helping thwart an attempt by US Senator John Warner of Virginia to derail the Cape Wind project last October through an "11th hour" amendment to a defense spending bill.
"Our organization, along with a number of other organizations, had a significant impact in getting that amendment removed and allowing the possibility of offshore wind to move forward in this country," Palmer said.
Saturday's annual meeting, which drew about 100 people to the Cummaquid Golf Club, was the second held by the group since it formed in the spring of 2003.
Thank you to supporters
The event was also an opportunity for Clean Power Now to extend thanks to people whose work has helped the group. Receiving awards for their efforts were Cotuit artist Richard C. Bartell, CPN board member Jim Liedell and the League of Women Voters, Cape Cod Area.
Members of the League spent more than two years studying the Cape Wind proposal before endorsing the proposal last winter. In January 2004, six League members accompanied members of Clean Power Now on the group's first trip to Denmark to see offshore wind farms for themselves.
For their endorsement that surely proved unpopular with many of their friends, League members "should have won a Profile in Courage award," said CPN For their endorsement that surely proved unpopular with many of their friends, League members "should have won a Profile in Courage award," said CPN board member Spyro Mitrokostas.board member Spyro Mitrokostas. Accepting the award for the League was Jean Mangiafico of Chatham, chairwoman of the League's environment committee.CPN members were also treated to a five-minute preview of videographer Liz Argo's documentary on the group's second trip to Denmark in May, which included footage of a charter boat trip through the 72-turbine array off Nysted and interviews with local Danish officials.
Palmer praised William and Dorte Griswold for their "tremendous amount of work" in organizing and coordinating last month's trip and CPN's first to Denmark in January 2004. The Griswolds had done this, Palmer said, "with a sense of humor, with a degree of fun, and it made the experiences absolutely fabulous and enjoyable."
After the meeting, the Griswolds chatted with Jim Gordon.
"I admire what you are doing," William Griswold told Gordon.
"I admire what you're doing," Gordon responded.
Gordon was also praised during a forum on New England's future energy needs held Wednesday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where he was a panelist along with Phil Warburg, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, among others.
Panelists in two discussions agreed that reducing dependence on imported energy and reversing climate change must start with greater energy efficiency.
After that, "we need to give renewable energy a fighting chance," Warburg said. "We have on this panel New England's most courageous and persistent - and I emphasize persistent - advocate for wind, Jim Gordon, pressing forward with a project that just might be our best short-term shot at curbing New England's fossil fuel diet."
In its response to the draft environmental impact report, the Natural Resources Defense Council described the Cape Wind project as "to our knowledge, the single-largest source of supply-side reductions in CO2 (carbon dioxide) currently proposed in the United States, and perhaps in the world."