Positive Environment News

New England's EMI plans 420 MW Nantucket wind farm

Date: 31-Oct-01
Country: USA
Author: Scott DiSavino

"We're developing America's first offshore wind farm five miles off the coast that will generate up to 420 megawatts (MW) of clean renewable energy," Jim Gordon, president of Energy Management and Cape Wind Associates LLC, told Reuters.

Energy Management of Boston, developing energy projects in the region for 26 years, built New England's first natural gas-fired merchant power plant in Dighton, Mass. in 1999.

Last year, Gordon said Energy Management sold its power plants to independent power producer Calpine Corp. of San Jose, Calif. and moved into the renewable energy business.

"Cape Wind represents the next level ... it's the most earth friendly energy project we've ever developed," Gordon said.

He said Cape Wind wants to build the Nantucket Wind project, which will include about 150 wind turbines on a four-by-six mile (six-by-10 km) shoal in Nantucket Sound about five miles (8 km) off the coast of Hyannis, Mass.

The turbines, which are about 15 feet (3 meters) in diameter, will be spaced a third to half a mile apart so recreational and fishing boats can traverse the area.

Cape Wind is compiling an environmental study for the project that it expects to file this autumn, working toward a goal of generating power by 2004.

THE COST OF WIND POWER

Gordon forecast the project would save New England electricity customers tens of millions of dollars a year.

"This project has a 30-year life. Over that time, it will be competitively priced against any other energy generation technology," Gordon said.

"Once the turbines are built, the wind is free."

In a study done for Cape Wind, utility consulting firm LaCapra Associates of Boston determined the Nantucket Wind project would cut New England power customers' energy costs by $18 million to $22 million a year.

Because of the fickle nature of the weather, EMI estimates the project would operate at an average 34 percent of capacity over any given year.

"I don't think wind power is cheap by any stretch," said energy analyst Mike Worms of investment banking firm Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co. of New York.

"If it weren't for federal subsidies, it probably wouldn't even be a viable option," Worms added, referring to the federal production tax credit for wind power.

The production tax credit pays wind farm operators 1.7 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity generated.

The credit, which pays a developer for 10 years after a turbine starts generating electricity, will expire at the end of December.

A spokeswoman at FPL Energy, the largest wind power producer in the United States, said the company was working diligently to get the tax credit extended.

FPL spokeswoman Carol Clauson warned that, if the credit is not extended, "the whole infrastructure that supports the wind industry will begin diminishing because there will be fewer and fewer developers like ourselves."

FPL Energy operates more than 1,000 MW of wind power in eight states in the Pacific Northwest, California, Texas, the Northern Plains and the Great Lakes.

WIND IS COMPETITIVE

Until recently, wind was not a cost-effective source of power.

But in the past 20 years the cost of wind energy has dropped by about 80 percent, according to FPL Energy, making it competitive with other energy sources.

FPL's Clauson said it costs about $1 million to develop a megawatt of wind power, compared with $550,000-$700,000 a megawatt for natural gas.

"When natural gas prices are high, wind is more competitive. When natural gas prices are low, wind power is less competitive," Clauson said.

The production tax credit helps narrow the remaining cost gap between wind power and natural gas.

Wind power costs about 4 cents to 4.5 cents per kWh, compared, with about 3 cents to 4 cents per kWh for natural gas and just 2 cents per kWh for nuclear fuel, according to Gerard Klauer's Worms.

When the wind blows, it can displace more costly fossil fueled generation such as oil and natur

Reuters
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