Cape Wind sails into the sunset after 16 years of futility

Cape Wind Associates has ended its ambitious and controversial 468-MW offshore wind project in Massachusetts, as first reported in the Cape Cod Times. In a statement to the newspaper, Dennis Duffy, Cape Wind veep, said, “Cape Wind has confirmed to the [Interior Department’s] Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that it has ceased development of its proposed offshore wind farm project in Nantucket Sound and has filed to terminate its offshore wind development lease that was issued in 2010.”

The troubled project – 130 3.6-MW Siemens offshore turbines spread over 25 square miles of Horseshoe Shoal between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island – drew the ire of local and well-connected residents of shore-front estates from the moment development was launched in 2001. Among the opponents were the powerful Kennedy family, including the late liberal U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, and the billionaire William Koch, a member of the prominent and conservative Koch Family.

Cape Wind footprint

Proponents of the project included environmental groups, which argued that the wind farm would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The opponents’ key objection was that the wind turbines were visible from the shore and a threat to property values.

The $2.6 billion project had a Perils of Pauline history. It faced political protests and litigation in the courts and at the Interior Department, delaying the project for years. But it ultimately failed on economic grounds.

The delays and missed project deadlines caused National Grid and Northeast Utilities (Eversource) to cancel power purchase agreements with Cape Wind in 2015. That proved to be the death blow. The Boston Globe reported, “Under a 2012 agreement, Northeast Utilities and NStar (now combined as Eversource) agreed to buy 27.5 percent of Cape Wind’s production, while National Grid had previously signed on to purchase 50 percent.”

When the distribution utilities canceled the agreements, arguing that Cape Wind had failed to meet its responsibilities, the project was unable to line up additional financing to go forward.

Despite Cape Wind’s demise, offshore wind is moving ahead in the U.S., although at a smaller scale. Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind in December 2016 began operating its 30-MW project off the Rhode Island coast, with the power going to National Grid. Several other offshore projects are under development.

— Kennedy Maize