Falling Out of Love with Cape Wind?

Some time ago a friend turned me on to the energycollective.com, a thoughtful, interesting blog on energy ad climate issues written primarily by subject matter experts (scientists, engineers, etc) in the renewable energy field, mostly from a non-political advocacy perspective. It is a good resource for people who occasionally like to get a sense of what is going on in that market space without all of the political baggage that tends to be loaded onto it in the mainstream media (from both sides). 

Of particular note for present purposes is the fact that the blog is underwritten by Siemens AG, an self-described “global powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering” that, among many other things, will manufacture the turbines for Cape Wind, should that project ever actually break water. So we’re hardly talking about a font of green skepticism here. To the contrary.

Anyhow, I recently stumbled on an interesting analysis from March of last year, by Willem Post of the Coalition for Energy Solutions. Titled “Examples of Wind Power to Learn From,” the piece uses a series of examples of costly, failed or otherwise deficient wind power projects to illustrate the proposition that with current technology, political promises and rhetoric about such projects too often bear little resemblance to their reality. One of the examples is our very own Cape Wind (the emphasis is mine):

Various government entities, eager to show their greenness regarding global warming, passed laws to subsidize renewable power, so-called “green power”, as if there is such a thing. Some governments even passed laws that declare hydropower as non-renewable, but, on reflection of its implications, reversed themselves and passed laws that declare hydropower IS renewable, as recently did Vermont’s legislature.

President Andrew Jackson, Democrat, Populist: “When government subsidizes, the well-connected benefit the most”. The renewables subsidies to the politically-well-connected often result in uneconomic wind power projects, some of which are described in this article.

Vendors, owners, financiers often claim “trade secrets”, whereas in reality they want to obfuscate wind power’s shortcomings, a too-generous subsidy deal, or other insider’s advantage. It would be much better for all involved, if there were public hearings and full disclosure regarding the economics of any project receiving government subsidies, to ensure the people’s funds receive the best return on investment…


Cape Wind Associates, LLC, plans to build and operate a wind facility on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Massachusetts. The wind facility would have a rated capacity of 468 MW consisting of 130 turbines @ 3.6 MW each made by Siemens AG, a German company, maximum blade height 440 feet, to be arranged in a grid pattern in 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound in federal waters off Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved a 15-yr power purchase agreement, PPA, between the utility National Grid and Cape Wind Associates, LLC. National Grid agreed to buy 50% of the wind facility’s power starting at $0.187/kWh in 2013 (base year), escalating at 3.5%/yr which means the 2028 price to the utility will be $0.313/kWh. The project is currently trying to sell the other 50% of its power so financing can proceed; so far no takers, because significant quantities of less expensive power from other renewables is available


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