Proponents of Wind Farm Trim Proposal for Horseshoe Shoal
By MANDY LOCKE
Cape Wind Associates erased 40 turbines from its wind farm site plans this week - freeing four square miles of Horseshoe Shoals previously staked by the private energy developer.
The announcement came Tuesday as Cape Wind officials sealed a deal with GE Wind Energy to manufacture the 130 turbines the developer now hopes to erect on 24 square miles of shallow water in Nantucket Sound.
"To be able to work with GE Wind Energy is very exciting. Cape Wind had the chance to buy American," said Mark Rodgers, communications director for Cape Wind.
A subsidiary of General Electric, GE Wind Energy will set up camp in Massachusetts if Cape Wind's offshore wind farm is granted permits by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. General Electric purchased turbine technology from energy giant Enron in 2002 - six months after the Texas-based company collapsed amid financial scandal.
Now based in California, GE Wind Energy is considering Quincy as a likely deep-water port to host the turbine manufacturer if plans proceed, Mr. Rodgers said. The new partners brag that a move to the Bay State would mean hundreds of jobs for state residents.
"Heretofore, large manufacturers of [wind turbines] are in Europe. Most people assumed we'd be buying European. The fact that there's an opportunity to buy American and employ regionally is quite exciting," Mr. Rodgers said.
But the announcement of relocating to a port town south of Boston brought murmurs of dissatisfaction from Cape and Island wind farm opponents - who question job opportunities for the residents they say will be most directly impacted by the wind farm.
"It doesn't strike me as very local. Cape and Island residents are still wondering what they will get. The project will dominate 24 square miles of the Sound and provide energy that will inevitably cost us more," said Isaac Rosen, executive director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a grassroots opposition group pushing for federal siting standards for private wind projects in public waters.
"It takes a lot of nerve for them to think we will accept this," he added.
Quincy, Mr. Rodgers explained, is equipped to host large barges, vessels that Cape harbors could not easily handle.
"Cape Cod is not set up for large manufacturers like this," Mr. Rodgers said, noting that the 50 employees who would be hired to run the proposed wind farm will be locally based.
The reduction in the number of turbines, Cape Wind explained, comes with knowing exactly what type of technology the company will use.
"For us, the magic number has been 420 megawatts," Mr. Rodgers said, referring to the wind farm's projected energy output - levels they say will supply three-fourths of the Cape and Island's electric needs.
"If we built more turbines, it would be a waste. Transmission cables would only be able to transport 420 megawatts," he said, referring to two underground cables expected to run from the wind farm to the New England power grid by way of Yarmouth.
The reduction in the number of turbines and usage of Horseshoe Shoal did little to temper opposition to the wind farm proposal.
"We still have problems with wildlife and navigation. We still have a problem that every place along the shore is up for grabs by private developers," said Mr. Rosen.
"Maybe in the very near future, we'll have federal siting standards. They'll be able to put [wind farms] so far out that the sea turtles won't mind, birds won't mind and no one will see it," he added.
In other wind energy developments, New York-based Winergy LLC filed an application with the Army Corps to erect a 167-foot data tower in shallow waters seven miles southeast of Nantucket.
Winergy - a major player in the offshore wind farm scene - had offered only a glimpse of their proposed plans for any of the 22 sites they've informally staked along the East Coast. An application filed with the Army Corps in August was incomplete.
Winergy's potential site on Nantucket Shoal is known for unpredictable weather and water conditions.
The Army Corps' first look at the Nantucket Shoal wind farm proposal last August involved a proposal for 231 turbines, though project principals this week suggested the final plan may be much smaller than originally proposed.
Winergy also announced plans in recent months to construct wind farms in three other sites off the coast of Massachusetts - off Provincetown, off Falmouth in Buzzard's Bay and in Essex Bay off Cape Anne.