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United States

Fish farm team bank on the roughest seas -- Permit request for 3003 MW

An application for the right to build 3003 MW of offshore wind power generation in the north-east United States at seven sites along the coastal area of Massachusetts has been lodged by Winergy LLC of Shirley, Long Island, New York. Four proposals are for more than 500 MW each and would be located in waters far south of the island of Nantucket, in or near an area called Nantucket Shoals. One project would be located 17 miles off the coast of Nantucket.

Winergy has never developed an energy project. The company's Bob Link and associate Dennis Quaranta have developed a fish farm off the eastern coast of Long Island. "Either these two gentlemen have figured out something which no one else in the offshore field has, or they haven't done even a preliminary engineering analysis of these sites," comments Mark Rogers from Cape Wind Associates, which together with GE Wind has proposed a 468 MW wind station in more sheltered waters to the south of Cape Cod and northeast of Nantucket.

Storms in the area selected by Winergy for three of the 500 MW projects can whip up nine metre waves, conditions which the wind industry so far has not considered developable. Winergy's other three sites are located in state waters and include proposals of ten turbines each. "I'll be really happy if I get permits for just two of those seven sites," says Link. He says the company will use direct current instead of alternating current cabling for sending electricity to shore, a choice so far dismissed by the European offshore wind industry as not being cost effective for other than very large projects a very long way from shore. "I didn't know that," says Link.

Something you say

Although the permit filed by Winergy says the company will build and maintain the energy facility, Link is quite frank about his lack of interest in doing so. "That's just something you have to say for the application," he says. "We intend to get these permits and then sell them to someone else."

Whether they can achieve their goals remains unclear. The process of winning an offshore permit requires bonding and other types of up-front financial commitment. Cape Wind says it has spent more than $8 million already for a project one-sixth the size, without starting environmental impact public discussions.

The permitting authority, the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), confirms the process requires deep pockets. "Past permits have included conditions that have required such things as posting of bond for removal of structures and re-establishment of impacted environments. These are conditions that must be met prior to realising any authorised activities," says USACE's Larry Rosenberg.

Governor opposition

Meantime, after only two months in office, newly elected Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has publicly opposed Cape Wind's 468 MW project because of its "visual impact," according to local newspaper, the Cape Cod Times. "The location isn't very good for the people of the Commonwealth," says a Romney aide. Deborah Donovan of the international Union of Concerned Scientists comments: "It's very premature to be taking a position either for or against the project -- particularly for someone in a leadership position like governor Romney."

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