Inching Towards Offshore Wind

Cape Wind, which aims to be the first offshore wind farm in the US, pushes slowly through the red tape, reaching a milestone last week.


Cape Wind, which intends to be the U.S.’s first offshore wind farm, continues to inch through thickets of red tape. In October, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a 28-year lease for the $1 billion project in the Nantucket Sound, and just last week, Massachusetts utility regulators approved an agreement to buy half the electricity produced by its planned 130 turbines, at a price of 18.7 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. Yesterday, Cape Wind CEO Jim Gordon spoke at the Platts Global Energy Outlook Forum in New York City.

His fellow presenters hailed from all over the country, with one presenter from Russia, who dealt in other forms of alternative energy that have been plagued by problems of their own–liquid natural gas, for instance, and nuclear power. At one point, the presenter on natural gas complained of a four-year permitting process.

“Man, that’s fast!” said Gordon, to laughter from the audience.

Still, Gordon’s sticking with it. “We’ve been developing this project for 10 years,” Gordon told me before his talk. It was worth the wait, though, since “this project has the potential to catalyze the industry. There’s tremendous potential. There’s over 900,000 megawatts of offshore wind identified off our coast”–enough, practically, to power the country.

On top of the bureaucratic red tape, vested energy interests have taken Cape Wind to court at every stage of the process (“We’re 12 and 0,” said Gordon of his winning record), slowing things further. Gordon has also encountered opposition in a certain strain of Nantucket NIMBYism, with people complaining about what, in Gordon’s words, will ultimately look like “half-inch toothpicks” on the distant horizon.

During the Q&A session, an audience member asked the question on everyone’s minds: “When will the first electron flow?”


“I think the first electron will flow by the end of 2012,” said Gordon.

“Platts should have a Persistence Award!” called someone from the audience.

[Image: Flickr user FranceHouseHunt]


About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.