Jan. 11, 2012
WOODS HOLE, Mass. — An evaluation of the Cape Wind project by ISO New England, which oversees the region's wholesale electricity market, has determined that the project will not be ready to generate electricity within the next 3.5 years.
That news was contained on page 18 of this January 3 filing (pdf) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In it, ISO New England said its consultants have determined it is "unlikely" Cape Wind's 130 turbines will achieve commercial operation by June 2015.
ISO New England spokesperson Marcia Blomberg said the ISO is required to be certain that the energy resources are in place to meet demand. In this case, an evaluation of resources was done for a one-year period between June 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016 in advance of an electricity auction.
"The ISO and its consultants," the document reads, "evaluated the information contained in the critical path schedule submitted by [Cape Wind] and have determined it is unlikely that the project will achieve commercial operation by the start of the 2015-2016 Capacity Commitment Period."
The ISO looked at a variety of criteria to determine if a generator could auction off power in the 2015–2016 period, Blomberg said, including whether it had all its necessary permits, whether it could be properly connected to the grid and whether financing was in place, among other factors. The Cape Wind project was one of 37 potential electricity generators that were not accepted for the auction.
While Cape Wind will not be allowed to auction off its electricity in this 2015-2016 period, Blomberg said there are other auctions available should things fall into place and Cape Wind is up and running sooner than ISO's evaluation determined.
Cape Wind project spokesman Mark Rodgers said, "That's their opinion, and we respectfully disagree."
Cape Wind officials expect to begin construction at the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013 and Rodgers said the project is expected to be in commercial operation in part or in full by the June 2015 date. But he also understood why the ISO would exclude Cape Wind from the auction, since the ISO must be completely certain that the necessary energy resources are in place to meet demand. "Their standard is very, very high," he said.
Rodgers added that the decision would not have a long-term negative effects.
"This really does not have much of an impact on us commercially," he said. "There is an auction every year, so at most you'll be talking about one year that you wouldn't be able to enter in the auction."
Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said ISO's determination confirmed what the Alliance already knew.
"Our position is that it is never going to be built," she said. "It is a clear acknowledgement they are facing some clear and insurmountable difficulties.… I think it's significant that ISO New England is acknowledging the fact Cape Wind is nowhere near a reality."
Although the Department of the Interior approved the Cape Wind project in April 2010, it still faces judicial challenges. Last year a key permit from the Federal Aviation Administration was rejected by a federal court. The project also needs to find a buyer for the remaining 50 percent of its anticipated electricity output.
WCAI CAPE WIND BLOG
Subscribe to WGBH Science Emails