United States

United States

Tackling an educational barrier

Flush with success from their development of hundreds of megawatt of wind plant in Europe in recent years, veteran wind power developers Brian Caffyn and Peter Gish are keen to move back into the US market. To this end they have set up shop in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod and say they are already involved in developing wind projects in seven states. On Cape Cod they expect to build somewhere between 15-100 MW of distributed wind energy generation in the hope that these smaller projects will help local people become more accustomed to the presence of wind turbines.

"There's such an educational barrier here," says Gish, with low-key but quite evident frustration about the chaos surrounding the proposal for a 420 MW offshore wind farm off Cape Cod (main story), in which the pair are invested. "Even countries like France have come out with national motives to implement renewable energy. As a consequence, most Europeans are attuned to these interests. What that's done is to create predictability, so that the industry is allowed to develop. Here, people don't yet realise that you've got something fundamentally different" in wind power -- a clean, non-polluting energy source.

At first glance, say the pair, the United States would seem a simpler market in which to work than that of Europe. It is, after all, one nation. The national tax credit for wind power is "a substantial economic advantage," says Gish, but the federal energy system is currently so disorganised that every venture carries great risk. "The only consistent thing you can say is that there is no consistency," he says. "Until people feel the rules are stable, investment will be minimal," he adds.

Caffyn is particularly bitter about the current attempts of Democratic Congressman William Delahunt and senator Ted Kennedy to place a moratorium on all offshore wind development by calling for a two year study. "The way to kill anything is to suggest to study it when you don't otherwise have the current legal structure in place to deny it," he says. "You're not supposed to penalise someone who is taking initiative in this country, someone who was following the rules according to what the rules were at the time the application was made."

Caffyn and Gish are members of a team which has built several hundred megawatt of wind projects in Italy and elsewhere in Europe under the name UPC Group. The team has recently set up shop in the US under the name UPC Wind Partners. Among its planned projects, UPC Wind Partners says it is co-developing a $500 million project with Global Wind Harvest, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Global Wind has already done much of the community outreach in the region, so UPC expects not to encounter the kind of political muscle that has been used in Massachusetts.

According to Caffyn, if the US were to make up its mind to emphasise wind development, "in five years, wind could have five percent of the energy market. In fifteen years, it could have twenty-five percent. It could happen very quickly."

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