Offshore Wind in Massachusetts Is at a Crossroad

Worthy comments by Porcupine and others below. - promoted by Bob_Neer

On March 23 the Boston Globe Magazine posted my article entitled “Offshore Wind May Finally Take off with Big Projects, None Named Cape Wind.”  It discusses omnibus energy legislation that will likely come out of the Massachusetts House within the next few weeks.  Although it is impossible to know exactly what the legislation will include, predictions are that there will be a provision requiring Massachusetts utilities to purchase 2,000 megawatts of offshore electric generating capacity.

The requirement that the utilities purchase a significant amount of offshore wind, in the neighborhood of 2,000 megawatts, is crucial.  Such a requirement is enough to jump-start an industry, not just a one-off project.  Experts observe that a commitment of that magnitude could lower costs dramatically over the next decade.  A requirement and, importantly, a requirement of a substantial magnitude, are the two pieces that will allow the market to bring down costs.

Thus far, there is no offshore wind generation in the entire U.S.  The first offshore wind farm in the country will almost certainly be Deepwater Wind’s five-turbine pilot project off Block Island, still under construction and scheduled to start generating electricity late this year.  Cape Wind, the project that is virtually synonymous with offshore wind in the U.S., has stalled in the face of endless litigation funded by the bottomless pit of Koch dollars.

Meanwhile, as I noted in my Globe article,

“[O]ffshore wind has become wildly successful in Europe. At the end of 2015, Europe had 3,230 offshore wind turbines in a total of 84 farms, providing enough electricity to power more than 7 million homes.”

As a result of this experience, and because of improvements in technology, costs are coming down.  As the article continues:

“By the mid-2020s, experts forecast that prices in Europe for electricity generated by offshore wind will be about 40 percent less than the starting price proposed by Cape Wind.  By then, international energy giant Danish Oil and Natural Gas wants its wind farms’ electricity prices to be competitive with natural gas.”

A federal agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, has leased hundreds of thousands of acres off the windy Massachusetts and Rhode coast to commercial developers.  Three experienced companies with significant financial backing, including Danish Oil and Natural Gas, which has built 14 offshore wind farms in Europe, have obtained leases.  The wind turbines closest to shore would be about 15 miles away, making them barely visible in good weather.

And we need offshore wind for lots of reasons:  to jump-start the industry—and the jobs—before another northeastern state does; to supply clean energy; to diversify our energy supply, which is now worryingly weighted towards natural gas; and to bring our energy dollars home instead of sending them to other areas of the U.S. and the world that have coal, oil, and natural gas.

Here’s a link to my Boston Globe Magazine article:



12 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. We have wind, let's harvest it!

    Massachusetts has no oil, coal, gas. We must import all of it and send money out of the state. We have wind. Let’s harvest it. I see no legitimate argument against it.

    • go fish...

      We have wind, let’s harvest it!(1+ / 0-) View voters

      Massachusetts has no oil, coal, gas. We must import all of it and send money out of the state. We have wind. Let’s harvest it. I see no legitimate argument against it.

      … Massachusetts has fish which is a natural resource every bit as precious to us as oil, coal or gas, if not more so…. even Charlie Baker cries over the plight of fishermen… The people who export their wind energy to us want us to export our fish to them. It is simply not the case that offshore is pristine siting ground for willy-nilly placement of turbines.

      Fisherman have long had concerns about offshore wind not least of which, if Europe is to be a guide (the diarist approvingly mentions European developers), that we’d adopt their same initial approach: the initial European solution to the problem of offshore wind and fisheries coesixting was to not let them coexist; to ban fisherman altogether from fishing near wind farms.

      I firmly believe that fisherman and wind power can co-exist, but that means more regulation on the the siting of, distance between, illumination of and burial of transmisison lines to and from wind turbines. And, despite the diarists attempts to allay fears of visibility, if we illuminate turbines to make them safe for, and safe from, fishing boats, they’ll possibly still be very visible from the shore even at 15 miles.

      • You mean like the Cod?

        Where are the cod on Cape Cod……over fished and gone.

        • ...

          You mean like the Cod?(0+ / 0-) View voters
          Where are the cod on Cape Cod……over fished and gone.

          That’s a different problem –And it is a problem, to be sure– but you said that you “see no legitimate argument against it”… well, unless you think the very idea of all fishing is obsolete and done then I have given you a legitmate argument, if not against it at least for greater care in implementation: we have to find a way to let fishing co-exist with wind power.

          • How does a wind farm make

            …all fishing obsolete?

            • ...

              How does a wind farm make(0+ / 0-) View voters

              …all fishing obsolete?

              …It doesn’t.

              You said the fish were gone, suggesting an obsolescence to the activity of fishing. I countered with the notion that if such were true, then the legitimate argument you asked for was not, in fact, legitimate…. But it’s not true, so wind farms and fishermen have to learn to co-exist, and there exists, like I said, a legitimate argument against willy nilly placement of wind turbines.

  2. Thanks for your snark about Cape Wind

    They tried for over a decade, fighting Sen. Kennedy, Tom Reilly, and other hypocritical Democrats, to establish the first off-shore wind facility in the US. They supported using endless and redundant permitting to stop the project before the Kochs were ever involved.

    I have spent many hours at the hearings for a decade, and unless the Kochs are simply purchasing the supermajority of Democrats here, there was no valid reason for this to fail, so to blame them is to deny responsibility.

    All the projects you are pushing are standing on their shoulders.

    • 6 6's for Porcupine

      This has been a massive failure of Massachusetts Democrats to push for alternative energy in the legislature and really fight for it. Not a peep from the leadership on this issue and they are doing nothing to raise the solar cap. To be fair, nothing from Gov. Baker either who professes a strong belief in free markets and climate change but apparently doesn’t believe in using the former to fight the latter.

      It is time for a politics that actually conserves in the best tradition and thinks about the legacy of future generations as Burke would’ve advised us to do, as Teddy Roosevelt did with national parks, as Frank Sargent did killing the Inner Belt and pushing transit. There aren’t leaders like that in either party in positions of influence at the state level, and it’s time to disrupt that with an alternative that will work.

  3. There is now a tentative State decision to deny extending permits to Cape Wind

    From the Cape Cod Times:

    A state board on Tuesday issued a tentative decision denying the extension of permits that would allow Cape Wind to build an electricity transmission line to connect its proposed offshore wind farm to land, further complicating the beleaguered project’s already grim prospects.

    Members of the Energy Facilities Siting Board will meet next week to finalize a decision on whether or not to renew nine state and local permits the board initially granted as a so-called “super permit” to the offshore wind energy developer in 2009. The permits allowed Cape Wind to construct a transmission line through state-owned territory in Nantucket Sound and Hyannis Harbor and across multiple Cape towns.

    A link to the tentaative decision is here.

  4. I get a chuckle

    I do, I get a chuckle each time I hear those in opposition to the wind turbines because of their damage to the natural beauty of the bay. Yeah, tell me about the natural beauty of the shorelines and islands, now all covered with monster sized vacation homes, homes that consume 1.21 gigawatts of power that is now supplied by fracking, strip mines and oil rigs.

    Gimme a break.

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