Cape Wind not among NStar’s contracts
The utility company
NStar submitted the proposed contracts last week to the state Department of Public Utilities, which must sign off on the agreements. NStar did not make public the price it intends to pay for power from the wind farms, redacting the figures in its filings and asking state officials to keep the information confidential.
Although NStar has met at least once with Cape Wind’s developers, it has yet to follow in the footsteps of fellow utility National Grid and make a deal to buy power from the wind power project. Cape Wind is seeking more buyers, and whether NStar is interested has been a matter of increasing speculation in the renewable energy industry. Deals to buy Cape Wind power are seen as crucial to the offshore project’s ability to raise financing for construction.
Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers declined to comment on the NStar deals yesterday. NStar remained noncommittal.
“We continue to explore all renewable projects,’’ said NStar spokeswoman Caroline Allen.
The three wind farms with NStar agreements are the Douglas Woods Wind Farm in Douglas, the Hoosac Wind Project in Monroe and Florida, Mass., and the Brimfield Wind project in Brimfield. All are land-based, and much smaller than the 130-turbine Cape Wind, which is projected to have a generating capacity of 468 megawatts.
Together, the NStar-contracted farms can generate 80 megawatts of power. One megawatt of wind power is enough for 225 to 300 homes.
State law requires the four investor-owned utilities in Massachusetts to negotiate long-term contracts with renewable energy providers for at least 3 percent of the power they sell. NStar’s wind farm deals will satisfy one-third of its obligation.
Of the 50 projects that submitted bids, said James G. Daly, NStar’s director of electric and gas energy supply, NStar chose the best deals. Although wind power is typically more expensive than conventional energy, Daly added, “our prices are lower than [those paid for] offshore wind.’’
Bob Grace, president of Sustainable Energy Advantage LLC, a consulting firm in Framingham, explained that several factors determine the cost of wind power, including the size of a project, its proximity to transmission lines, and the amount of wind at its location.
He estimated the price of power from the three land-based wind farms at 10 cents to 15 cents per kilowatt hour. National Grid agreed to pay Cape Wind a starting price of 20.7 cents an hour in 2013, and to raise the price annually.
NStar’s competitive process probably means a good deal for consumers, said Robert Rio, senior vice president of the trade group Associated Industries of Massachusetts Inc., which long has questioned the costs of Cape Wind.
“By definition, they probably got the best price out there,’’ Rio said.
Sue Reid, a lawyer with the nonprofit advocacy group Conservation Law Foundation, said she thinks NStar’s decision “does not close the door on an agreement with Cape Wind.’’
Renewable energy resources are a must to meet the state’s environmental goals, she said.
“Cape Wind is the priority,’’ Reid said, “but we need to get these other projects built.’’
Erin Ailworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.