America’s First Offshore Wind Farm Closer To Reality After Receiving $2 Billion From Japanese Bank

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[Source: Wikipedia]

[Source: Wikipedia]

Offshore wind farms are finally arriving on US shores – and they’re doing it with foreign help. Plans to install Cape Wind, a 468 MW, 130 turbine wind farm in the waters off the Massachusetts coast just took a major step forward through a large investment from a Japanese bank. The financing makes Cape Wind very likely to become America’s first offshore wind farm.

While politics and ghastly bureaucracies have thwarted efforts to adopt offshore wind farms in the US, coastlines across Europe are already using the farms to supplement their energy needs. Cape Wind’s developer, New England-based Energy Management Inc., themselves have been engaged in a prolonged and difficult battle to make the wind farm a reality.

Now, with the help of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Cape Wind is much closer to becoming a reality – $2 billion closer. Last month the Japanese bank signed a term agreement to become the Coordinating Lead Arranger for Cape Wind. The money will pay for development and construction costs of the project, which is to be installed in the Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts. So as to not intrude on island residents and vacationers, all of the 130 turbines, each 258 feet tall from waterline to blade hub, will be located at least 5 miles from coastal properties over an area spanning between six to nine football fields. Jim Gordon, Cape Wind president, said the financing was one of the last steps needed before construction could begin, which he expects to happen by the end of the year.

The Cape Wind offshore wind farm has met resistance from environmental groups and residents alike. [Source: Rebirth Productions via Vimeo]

The Cape Wind offshore wind farm has met resistance from environmental groups and residents alike. [Source: Rebirth Productions via Vimeo]

While the US is still waiting for its first offshore wind farm, much of the developed world has already dotted their shores with the towering turbines. Of the world’s 25 most productive offshore wind farms, 22 are located in Europe – mostly in the UK. The remaining 3 are in China. Between 2011 and 2012 renewable energy production rose by 21 percent in UK, the bulk of that increase being due to a 45 1/2 percent increase in power from offshore wind. With 1,600 offshore wind turbines feeding over 3,800 MW capacity to the European grid, it’s obvious Europe has embraced the form of renewable energy yet to make its way across to the other side of the Atlantic.

In his State of the Union address in February, President Obama proclaimed that “for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,” and promised to take action that would “speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.” That’s all well and good unless you try to stick those sustainable sources of energy in people’s backyards.

With high, constant winds and shoals that remain shallow for miles, conditions along the northeast coast are ideal for wind farms. That’s what Gordon thought when he had originally proposed Cape Wind back in 2001 – he had no idea how hard it would be.

To summarize a drama that has been the topic of two books and a documentary, everything from "visual pollution" to the "desecration of Indian burial grounds" have been thrown at Cape Wind to halt its path to the Nantucket Sound. Energy Management Inc. had to slog through government studies, regulatory reviews, public hearings and environmental lawsuits – the most daunting from Massachusetts liberals who want renewable energy, they just don't wnt it near Nantucket. Consulting agencies assessed the impact construction would have on people, wildlife, waterways, soil, air quality, air travel, and other possible disruptions. Estimates of the number of birds and bats would be killed in turbine blades were made. And to assuage (or confirm) fears from coastal and island residents fortunate enough to have an ocean view, simulations were created to show how the turbines might appear from shore and even to boaters in the area.

It was only after fighting its way through the thicket of regulatory hurdles and lawsuits that Energy Management Inc. was able to obtain approval from Massachusetts last year, with the Tokyo-Mitsubishi signing shortly thereafter. In all, it took 12 years and at least $65M to finally gain that approval.

“Most projects and most developers that would get involved in a process like that would probably throw their arms up and walk away,” Gordon told Huffington Post. “And for some worthy projects, that would be a shame.” Now that Gordon stands victorious at the Massachusetts coast, ready to guide America into unchartered energy waters, Cape Wind opponents will undoubtedly do their best before construction begins to sink the project before it sets sail.

[Source: ElectronProjectTube via YouTube]

Peter Murray

Peter Murray was born in Boston in 1973. He earned a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore studying gene expression in the neocortex. Following his dissertation work he spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the same university studying brain mechanisms of pain and motor control. He completed a collection of short stories in 2010 and has been writing for Singularity Hub since March 2011.

Discussion — 4 Responses

  • stomv April 15, 2013 on 5:34 pm

    The line that “Energy Management Inc. had to slog through government studies, regulatory reviews, public hearings and environmental lawsuits – the most daunting from Massachusetts liberals who want renewable energy, they just don’t wnt [sic] it near Nantucket.” is absolute nonsense. Governor Patrick campaigned in 2006 in support of Cape Wind, and won the Democratic nomination thanks to support from liberal Dems. Since then, liberals and environmentalists in MA have supported Cape Wind full force, and state-wide support for the project has steadily grown. Sure, the late Senator Ted Kennedy was an opponent, but it was purely NIMBYism; it had nothing to do with liberal policies or environmental policies.

    It’s a decent article. Don’t sandbag it with nonsense which matches a per-concieved meme instead of reality. Cape Wind’s opponents, The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, have one thing in common, and it ain’t liberal politics.

  • Bill Slycat April 15, 2013 on 9:12 pm

    If we need to fight global warming then we need solutions that work. However, INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES ARE A SHAM AND DO NOT PROVIDE CLEAN ENERGY! Not one coal or gas plant the world over has been decommissioned because of IWTs…and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels is their whole purpose. To quote an expert: “Because wind blows intermittently, electric utilities must either keep their conventional power plants running all the time to make sure the lights don’t go dark, or continually ramp up and down the output from conventional coal-or gas-fired generators (called “cycling”). But coal-fired and gas-fired generators are designed to run continuously, and if they don’t, fuel consumption and emissions generally increase.” This is happening worldwide, and in places like Colorado and Texas where CO2 and power plant pollution have increased since installing wind farms:–cost-of-green-energy-40-higher-than-government-estimates
    The wind industry is built on crony capitalism, it is the only way it can exist. The Federal Production Tax Credit and double-declining depreciation are the main fuels. Taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies build them and power companies are mandated to buy wind generated power at much higher rates than conventionally produced power. There is no true benefit, except to wind power companies, politicians and lobbyists. Get ready to pay a lot more on your electric bills if offshore wind proliferates.

  • Barbara Durkin April 16, 2013 on 7:31 am

    If Cape Wind survives five federal lawsuits, Congressional investigations, and Could generate energy at three times current cost, AFTER public subsidies equal to 65% of project cost…

    The overarching problem is that Cape Wind technology is failing as deployed offshore U.K. If we “follow Europe” into the sea with wind turbines, we will follow them off the cliff in cost and technological terms.

    Cape Wind, as specified by the developer in the Construction Operation Plan (COP) and in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) 4,000 pages, is “discontinued”, “sinking”, “shifting”, and “corroding”:

    Cape Wind is the Solyndra of the Sea.

  • Ver Greeneyes April 16, 2013 on 9:31 am

    The nice thing about wind power is that you can turn the windmills out of the wind so they don’t generate more energy than is needed (e.g. during the night). That means they can complement traditional sources of power.

    The unfortunate thing about them is that unless you have a lot of them spread out all across the world, all connected in one giant network, you can’t depend on wind blowing all the time – so they won’t be replacing conventional power any time soon.

    This problem could be solved by attaching large batteries to each windmill – but batteries are expensive, take up a fair amount of resources to make, and worst of all: they don’t last very long. Indeed, solar power has a similar problem – unless you attach big power cells to each one for use during the night, or send the power around a massive, trans-continental grid until it’s needed, it’s not really practical to replace conventional power sources with them. So really, we’re waiting for a big advance in battery technology more than anything else here.