Japanese Bank Pours $2B USD Into America's First Offshore Wind Farm
April 16, 2013 1:23 PM
Opponents appear on the verge of losing their fight to block the project
A top Japanese financial institution is
betting on American wind power
in a big way.
I. Big (Wind) in Japan
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.'s (
) Bank of Tokyo has offered up $2B USD in funding to the ambitious effort to build America's first offshore wind farm. The commitment by the Bank of Tokyo to act as the Coordinating Lead Arranger (primary lender) removes the final hurdle from the Cape Wind project, according to its developers.
Located 5 miles offshore in the Nantucket Sound, and surrounded on three sides by three of the region's largest resort areas -- Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard, the project looks to have 130 turbines generating a peak capacity of 468 megawatts of power. Spinning at a lazy 8 miles per hour, the turbines will tower 258 feet above the waters of the bay.
The project is located in Nantucket Sound. [Image Source: YouTube]
Like the now-defunct effort to build a 4 gigawatt wind farm -- the nation's largest -- in the panhandle region of Texas, the East Coast project was founded by a fossil fuel man who fell in love with the wind.
Energy Management Inc. founder Jim Gordon dreamed up the Cape Wind installation. A highly successful and well-heeled natural gas developer, Mr. Gordon took careful note of the fact that the Sound featured some of the strongest winds of any coastal region in the U.S. These northeastern gales made the project seem like a layup.
II. Cape Wind Supporters Rally for Over a Decade
But in the decade that passed after the project's conception Mr. Gordon was confronted by a baffling brand of Massachusetts "liberalism". Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney along with his state regulators and county officials in Barnstable County subjected Cape Wind to an arduous set of reviews and public hearings.
In a state home to one of the nation's largest "environmentalist" movements, the issue deeply divided residents.
Some supporters -- particularly laborers who eagerly awaited the high paying installation jobs the project would provide -- fought for the project, sporting "YES" signs at local rallies. They were backed by some big national environmental organizations -- the
Cape Wind supporters show off "YES" signs. [Image Source: Cape Code Today]
Kert Davies, Research Director at Greenpeace and a longtime activist on the Cape Wind project
in 2010, "There could be no clearer direction for America's energy future and global warming leadership, and Greenpeace is calling upon President Obama to think twice about his recently announced plans to open the door to more risky offshore drilling and to prioritize renewable energy projects like Cape Wind instead."
Sen. John Kerry
(D), today the U.S. Secretary of State, also supported Cape Wind.
III. Opponents Get a Boost From Oil Billionaire "Willy" Koch
But other local landowners and "environmentalists" threw their weight behind the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, sporting the catch phrase "SOS" (
Save Our Sound
They made their thoughts clear -- they demanded alternative energy. But they wanted it in
Protesters wave signs in opposition to the Cape Wind project. [Image Source: YouTube]
They referred to the proposed installation as "visual pollution", despite the fact that the wind farm would be barely visible miles offshore. Local environmentalists opposing the project found strange bedfellows. By 2006 alone, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound had received $1.5M USD from oil and coal scion William Koch, founder of Koch Industries. Mr. Koch's tax forms indicated he personally paid Alliance CEO Audra Parker's nearly $150K USD salary.
The opponents' quest to derail the local wind project received a boost from local indigenous peoples -- the Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah tribes ardently opposed the project, because they argued their ancestors left artifacts in the bay and hence building in it would be an act of desecration. They were successfully able to get the shore classified in the National Register of Historic Places.
Governor Romney public
opposed the project
, alluding that he might use his power to veto any approvals. He insisted that the market tampering was necessary to "protect" residents.
Tensions ran high on both sides, transforming what could have been a year-or-so regulatory process into a circus show running for over a decade. That conflict was summed up in the award-winning documentary
Similar fights were occurring elsewhere across the country. After years of lobbying for alternative energy, environmentalists turned to fighting the projects they begged for, and local politicians were more than happy to help. Such a marriage of protests and bureaucratic red tape led to regulators to refuse to connect what would have been the nation's largest interior wind farm to the grid. Oil mogul T. Boone Pickens -- after
was left to
throw up his hands as he watched it die
IV. The Verge of Victory: State Approval
But it now appears that the lingering opposition to the project is blowing away.
One of Mr. Gordon's most effective tools has been a series of computer renderings he sponsored which showed residents in
just how hard it would be to even see the turbines from the shore or from boats in shallow waters.
A rendered view of Cape Wind [Image Source: EMI]
received federal approval
U.S. Department of the Interior
in 2011. And last year, the state of Massachusetts gave
Those approvals have come at a high cost
-- the project backers have spent nearly $65M USD in lobbying and 12 years.
State of the Union address
[YouTube] this past February, President Obama called on the nation to back efforts like Cape Wind to "combat climate change", remarking, "[We must] speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."
Jim Gordon told
The Huffington Post
, "Most projects and most developers that would get involved in a process like that would probably throw their arms up and walk away. And for some worthy projects, that would be a shame."
As one pro-turbine resident elated in the
documentary, "Cape Wind will be built and I can't wait: build the god damn wind farm."
Under the contract approved by Massachusetts' state government last year, NSTAR Electric Comp. (
) will buy electricity from the EMI installation for 15 years.
V. Opponent: "It's Going to End When ... We Just Beat Them to Death."
China has 3 offshore wind farms
. The world's remaining 22 wind farms are all located in Europe, providing 3,600 megawatts of power from 1,600 offshore turbines. Most of those installations are in the
coastal waters surrounding EU member state England
A crane installs an offshore turbine in China. [Image Source: OffshoreWind.biz]
Now the U.S. may join that elite crowd.
But even with the state approval and financial backing, the project still faces a tough fight as it plans to break ground and begin construction later this year. Opponents have vowed to kill the project with lawsuits.
Protesters have promised murderous resistance to the project. [Image Source: YouTube]
As one opponent said of the project's supporters in
, "It's never going to get built. It's going to end when they either quit or we just beat them to death. But this project's going down."
Cape Wind [press release]
"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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