Big win for nation’s first offshore wind farm; big loss for a Koch Brother
by Michael Conathan and Kiley Kroh
In a huge step toward making the nation’s first offshore wind farm a reality, Massachusetts officials announced Wednesday that energy companies Northeast Utilities and NStar have agreed to buy more than a quarter of the power produced by the Cape Wind offshore wind farm. The Cape Wind power purchase agreement is “one portion of a broader agreement that Attorney General Martha Coakley said would save an estimated $217 million over four years for customers of NStar and Western Massachusetts Electric Co., which is currently owned by Northeast Utilities.”
With 50 percent of its power previously under contract to National Grid, the terms of the merger agreement between the two companies means Cape Wind will have a buyer for more than three-quarters of its electricity, paving a clearer path for the company to generate the investments that will allow construction to begin. The project received the green light to begin construction from the Department of the Interior last year.
The project has been more than a decade in the making, due in no small part to opposition led by Bill Koch, the founder of fossil fuel giant Oxbow Carbon, a company that spent over a million dollars lobbying against Cape Wind in the past.
Koch is described on Oxbow’s website as “an international businessman, chemical engineer, art collector, and world-class sailor.” Much of Koch’s yachting occurs on sojourns from his waterfront mansion in a gated island country club community overlooking the Nantucket Sound location where Cape Wind’s turbines are slated for construction.
And yes, he’s the brother of David and Charles Koch – the leading funders of disinformation and political action against greenhouse reductions and clean energy, including a bogus study about the economics of offshore wind energy in New Jersey.
Cape Wind’s backers, on the other hand, include the 76% of Massachusetts residents who, in a November 2010 poll said they were willing to pay higher electricity rates for renewable energy, and the 57% of Cape Cod residents who, in 2009, said they supported the project.
According to Cape Wind CEO, Jim Gordon:
“NSTAR and the Patrick Administration are helping ensure that Cape Wind will supply up to 500,000 homes with locally harvested renewable energy and create hundreds of new jobs. While Massachusetts may be at the end of the energy pipeline for oil, coal and natural gas, we do have an abundant and inexhaustible supply of offshore wind and we will harness it for a better energy future.”
In light of the late 2010 announcement from Bluewater Wind/NRG that it was backing out of a power purchase agreement for a wind farm off the coast of Delaware, this announcement is big news not only for Cape Wind, but for the offshore wind energy industry in general. Under President Obama, the Interior Department has done its part by aggressively implementing its “Smart from the Start” permitting program.
Now it’s time for Congress to follow suit by extending financing incentives that will spur this industry forward and pave the way to a new clean energy economy rather than keeping the playing field tilted in favor of fossil fuel tycoons.
Michael Conathan is Director of Ocean Policy and Kiley Kroh is the Associate Director of Ocean Communications at American Progress.