BAIT AND SWITCH
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
On May 10, 2010, National Grid filed its request with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities for approval of two agreements with Cape Wind. The per kilowatt hour cost proposed by National Grid is 20.7 cents escalating at 3.5 per cent for 15 years, when it will be 33.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh).
To characterize the new Cape Wind price as a bait and switch would be polite. In Interior Secretary Salazar’s decision approving Cape Wind, the Secretary assumed the cost would be 12.8 cents kwh (see page seven of the record of decision). Alternate sites were rejected because of the assumed higher kwh cost of 14.8, 20.9, and 15.9 cents kwh, respectively.
Whether one supports or opposes Cape Wind, the one fact that is clear from the nine years of proceedings thus far is that the Cape Wind project will substantially alter the character of the Nantucket Sound for a generation. The main question was whether the cost of that alteration and the cost of the energy was offset by the pressing need for renewable energy. I had until this time been willing to accept the balancing of those factors by others because the need for renewable energy is urgent.
Somehow between Secretary Salazar’s decision and the filing by National Grid (a mere two weeks), the projected cost to Massachusetts ratepayers increased a whopping 62 per cent.
At the price proposed by Cape Wind, however, the choice is no longer between renewable energy and no renewable energy. The choice is now between Cape Wind and utility-scale solar.
Utility-scale solar is less expensive than Cape Wind on a straight per kwh rate. More importantly, however, is that utility-scale solar also will result in less inefficiency in the Massachusetts electrical system because solar is at its maximum output when we need it most. Peak demand continues to be projected to grow at a faster rate than demand generally. That means that more gas-fired power plants will be built to address the increase in peak demand even though we only need that extra electricity at certain very limited times of the year. That will result in the continued building of an even more inefficient transmission and generation system, which means continuing higher costs for Massachusetts ratepayers.
At the prices proposed by Cape Wind, utility-scale solar becomes the overwhelming clear choice in every category of comparison.
Now we do not need to make a choice between the character of the Nantucket Sound and reducing our dependence on carbon generating power plants. I would urge everyone to write to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and demand that National Grid be required to issue a competitive solicitation for utility-scale solar so that the true cost of solar and Cape Wind can be compared.
Even if you’re a supporter of Cape Wind, it is hard to justify the kwh costs and the permanent alteration to Nantucket Sound without at least looking at the solar alternative.
Comments should be addressed by June 9, 2010, to: Mark D. Marini, Secretary, Department of Public Utilities, One South Station, Boston, MA 02110 (Re: National Grid, D.P.U. 10-54).
VINEYARD POWER’s OBJECTIVE
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I read with appreciation the recent letters about our proposed wind farm and the op-ed on the wind turbines in Vinalhaven, Me. Jeff Parker expressed concern in his letter that the cost of the Vineyard Power cooperative wind farm has been floating up from $140 to as much as $267 million. The site we used to test the idea originally was at the entrance to Buzzard’s Bay, where we could get actual wind data. Our estimate of construction cost there rose three months after the business plan became public from $140 to $170 million in December; $20 million of that increase was for weather contingency.
But the construction cost estimate has not changed since then.
At our siting forum in April, we presented three scenarios to illustrate the impact on the cost of building the turbines at different distances from the Island. One site is pretty close to Noman’s and the other two are farther out. The construction cost of the wind turbine farm at those three alternative sites would be $175, $177 and $214 million. The differences are due primarily to length of cable and water depth.
But because there are other significant factors in play here, I presented the comparison as total cost, including interest expense, instead of just construction cost. The total costs are $214 million for the original site and $217, $219 and $267 million for the three comparison sites. These total costs were the numbers discussed at the forum and in Jeff’s letter. I apologize for any confusion my decision to use total cost has apparently caused, but I want everyone to understand that these costs are for the same wind farm in four different places.
Aside from these details, Jeff’s call for a rigorous analysis of alternatives and an understanding of the costs and risks before undertaking such a big investment (any of the above numbers more than qualify for that distinction) is right on. The cooperative and its wind farm are products of the Island Plan process where extended deliberation concluded efficiency was first (tight new construction, heat pumps in lieu of oil or propane and conversion to electric cars) followed by generating our own renewable wind power.
Vineyard Power is trying to present the possibilities in a rational decision framework that leads to practical action. Let’s get to it.
JUNIOR CLASS THANKS
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The members of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School junior class and the junior class advisors would like to thank deeply all of those who have donated time and money to our fund-raising efforts this year.
In particular we would like to thank Sharky’s Restaurant for continuing to support student fund-raising efforts and for hosting our silent auction fundraiser, through which we were able to secure the final funds necessary for this year’s prom. Thanks to the many Island businesses and individuals who donated valuable items to our cause.
A special thank you also to the crew at the Mediterranean for graciously hosting our prom this past Saturday night. The venue looked beautiful, and the service was exquisite. Thank you to our invested parents who helped us to decorate, the Oak Bluffs police force for providing security, the youth task force for donating parting bags, Donaroma’s and Morrice Florist for their beautiful plants, Deborah Gaines for documenting the memories, and Jerry Bennett and the Sultans of Swing for a performance that kept our students dancing all night long.
To all who have continuously offered time and help in organizing our fund-raising efforts — parents, teachers, administrators, friends of the community — we are truly grateful and honored to be part of such a supportive community.
A SAFE RIDE: PRICELESS
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The Safe Rides program of Martha’s Vineyard has been running strong for 11 years now. It is a program that provides a safe ride home to local high school kids on weekends between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Contrary to popular belief, most of the Safe Rides users are not intoxicated, but just need a safe ride home.
There are four to eight kids who man the base, some who drive and some who answer phones, and one adult supervisor to make sure nothing goes amiss at the base. This past year it has been difficult to find adult volunteers. Many of our adults leave the program after their children graduate from the high school.
Safe Rides is a great program that is used and supported by the kids at the high school. If, in the last 11 years, we have saved just one life, then the thousands of hours spent by high school kids and Island adults are worth every minute!
Safe Rides would like to thank the Farm Neck Foundation and Island Electronics for helping us to acquire new phones this year. We would also like to thank the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center for graciously letting us use their building as the home base every weekend and the Mailroom for the use of a mailbox. Mike Wallace of Jim’s Package Store has provided certificates to reimburse our nightly drivers for the gas they use. The West Tisbury Congregational Church made Safe Rides the cause of the month last January, and from that we received a generous donation to the program. The Tisbury Ambulance’s Jeff Pratt has been indispensable in training our volunteers, adding his insight and humor. The Boy Scouts of America have supported the program since its inception.
Safe Rides is funded entirely by donations. Anyone who would like to help out by volunteering can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations will be gratefully accepted and can be sent to Safe Rides, P.O. Box 9000, Box 166, Edgartown MA, 02539. The program is a venturing arm of the Boy Scouts of America and, as such, donations are fully tax deductible.
Kathy Retmier and Karen Bressler
West Tisbury and Edgartown
The writers are adult advisors for Safe Rides.