Cape Wind gets green light to plug clean energy into National Grid

State OKs agreement for National Grid to purchase half of Cape Wind power
Big leap ahead for state as nation's renewable energy center

By Walter Brooks

"Today's decision helps ensure Cape Wind can create clean American energy in the near future, reducing our dependence on foreign fuel and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as preventing black outs and enhancing electricity system reliability and promoting fuel diversity."
        - Brandi Colander, NRDC.

Massachusetts just approved an agreement for National Grid to purchase half of the power from Cape Wind, the nation's first utility-scale offshore wind farm, when its turbines start spinning. The decision indicates the Commonwealth has determined the project is cost-effective.

Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said, "Massachusetts is now in a position to become a global leader in offshore wind power creating thousands of new jobs and a more secure, hopeful energy future. Today's approval validates that Cape Wind is a good value delivering clean energy without all of the associated costs of fossil fuels. This long-term contract not only secures an abundant, inexhaustible clean energy resource but protects consumers from rising fossil fuel and environmental compliance costs.".

The DPU decision culminates a comprehensive six-month review of unprecedented scope, including 13 days of evidentiary hearings with testimony from 15 witnesses, 1,362 exhibits and nearly 3,000 transcript pages. Participation in the case was wide-ranging and extensive, with 14 different active parties.

This DPU approval comes on the heels of significant Cape Wind project announcements that locate the creation of over 1,000 new manufacturing, staging, assembly, construction, and operations jobs in Massachusetts. In addition, Siemens has opened their North American Offshore Wind office in Boston because of Cape Wind.

Grass Roots reaction

Barbara Hill, Executive Director of Clean Power Now, which intervened in the Department of Public Utilities proceedings said, "Today's announcement approving the Cape Wind project claiming that the project offers unique and significant public interest benefits, has significantly advanced our states ability to achieve the renewable targets set by the Governor as well as greenhouse gas reduction requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act."

What the DPU action means

Today the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved the long-term power purchase agreement between Cape Wind and National Grid.

The DPU approved the contract for 50 percent of the power. Clean Power Now (CPN) was an intervener in the DPU case and presented substantial evidence as to the costs and impacts of global warming and regarding the avoided greenhouse gas emissions in this litigation.

CPN worked closely with attorneys from Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) over the past several months and years.

This 12,000 member grass roots organization which was started on Cape Cod offered testimony from global warming economist Gary Yohe and others.

DPU agreed with CPN and with Cape Wind, National Grid and the State Department of Energy Resources that such costs should and must be considered.

In the Executive Summary, the DPU states:

One of the many benefits that Cape Wind provides is that it will assist National Grid and Massachusetts in meeting the renewable energy requirements of the Green Communities Act, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act. Meeting those greenhouse gas emission mandates will require significant investments across all sectors of the economy, and especially from the electricity sector. We conclude that those requirements are unlikely to be met without the Cape Wind contract and the associated emissions reductions from the project...

[I]t is abundantly clear that the Cape Wind facility offers significant benefits that are not currently available from any other renewable resources. We find that these benefits outweigh the costs of the project." P. xvii.

The evidence in this proceeding makes it clear that the Cape Wind project offers unique benefits relative to the other renewable resources available." P. xxi.

"The DPU's decision brings Massachusetts one step closer to realizing the economic and environmental promise of offshore wind energy.
   The decision is particularly significant in that it spells out for residents and businesses that power from Cape Wind will be less expensive than opponents have suggested, especially when one takes into account Cape Wind's value in reducing the volatility of the price they pay for electricity. 
   Recognizing the major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that will come with Cape Wind's clean power, the DPU clearly has determined that Cape Wind is a good deal for Massachusetts ratepayers
."
              - John Kassel, CLF.

Tiny cost for clean air and healthy lungs

The NRDC reports that while some argued against that the Cape Wind project by saying it would be too expensive, this agreement showed Massachusetts can trade out its dirty energy for clean, renewable wind power with only an additional $1.25 per month on the electric bill for the average National Grid customer. And this small charge will reap large cost-savings benefits for all customers on the electric grid - ranging from reductions in wholesale electricity and natural gas prices for other utilities, to hedging against volatile natural gas prices because unlike fossil fuels, wind energy prices stay stable and are not prone to dreaded spikes in your bill.

When Cape Wind becomes the first U.S. offshore wind farm it will have overcome critics including the Kennedy Family and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to say nothing of the millions spent by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound to stop America's move to an fossil fuel free future.

Starting as early as 2012 Cape Wind Associates will install 130 Siemens AG offshore turbines about 5 miles off the Cape Cod southern shore in an area known as Horseshoe Shoal. The project would spread over 25 square miles and would generate as much as 468 megawatts of power.

The project is estimated to cost about $2.43 billion not counting the transmission lines from the offshore project to a transmission point in Yarmouth.The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) hailed Monday's decision by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approving a fifteen-year contract for the sale of Cape Wind's power and renewable energy credits to electric utility National Grid, a crucial step toward advancing the country's first utility-scale offshore wind farm.

The decision, based on extensive expert testimony and other evidence brought forward by supporters and opponents of the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project, reached the important conclusions that Cape Wind's long-term power purchase agreement is "cost-effective" and "in the public interest," and will deliver substantial benefits for ratepayers and the Commonwealth.

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