Coastal Energy Massachusetts Wind and Solar Score Wins but Texas Nuclear Cools Down

Coastal population growth has outstripped national growth for decades. With the current recession, migration to the coasts has hit a speed bump; but it is forecast to resume as the economy picks up. For coastal communities that forecast brings with it a need to work on basic infrastructure, including electric power supplies. This spring brings mixed news about the coastal energy infrastructure. In Massachusetts, wind-power advocates won a big round in their battle to build an offshore windmill farm near Cape Cod and the offshore islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar traveled to Boston to announce approval of all Federal permits needed to go forward with the project in Nantucket Sound. The Boston Globe has that story (“ US gives green light to Cape Wind project). Opponents of the project are not ready to give up, however, pointing out that the project faces no fewer than 11 ongoing court challenges. Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound said, “They are attempting to declare victory in a war that is far from over.” But officials in New Bedford, Mass., said they were moving forward with plans for a $35 million port facility to support construction of the offshore windmills, according to the New England Business Bulletin (“ Construction to start this summer on NB port facility to support Cape Wind ”). Also in April, the Cape and Vineyard Electrical Cooperative (CVEC) announced another major alternative energy project for the region — not wind this time, but solar, reported the Barnstable Patriot (“ Cape sets shining example for solar). The $85-million solar photovoltaic farm, to be sited on capped landfills in 10 sites within seven or more Cape Cod and Vineyard towns, promises enough power to run thousands of Cape Cod homes, the paper reported. On the South Texas coast, meanwhile, the picture is not so sunny for another fossil-fuel alternative: nuclear power. The San Antonio Express-News reports that utility NRG will stop work on its South Texas Project nuclear power plant expansion, following the nuclear catastrophe created by Japan’s tsunami and earthquake this spring (“ NRG will no longer invest in STP expansion). NRG CEO David Crane said, “The project is not dead, but it's not moving forward at this point, and to be frank, under the current circumstances, the reality of it moving forward in the foreseeable future is not high.” Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the six nuclear power plants crippled in the Japan disaster, had promised last year to invest $150 million in the Texas project. But facing an unprecedented catastrophe with its existing reactors, TEPCO now has to walk that promise back. TEPCO faces an unknown future with its own reactors: containing and decommissioning the ruined plants could take decades, the company’s president has said, and continuing with the south Texas project, would be “difficult,” according to a report in the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald (“ Fears nuclear shutdown could take 30 years,” by Shigeru Sato and Yuji Okada). For NRG, the stalled plant will still represent a heavy continuing expense, CEO Crane noted (“Energy CEO says odds for new Texas reactors fall,” by Eileen O'Grady -- Reuters). Crane said he’s not ready to give up on nuclear power in south Texas, calling it “the best place to build a new nuclear plant.” But he observed, "Because of the cost and complexity of developing a nuclear plant, it's hard to just put it on the back burner for a year."