Clean Power Cape Wind commissions wind turbines from Siemens

Published on December 25th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Massive Cape Wind Project (Finally) Kicks Into High Gear

December 25th, 2013 by  

The global wind turbine leader Siemens has just inked a deal to provide its offshore turbines to the massive new Cape Wind wind power project, and that one contract could shake the offshore wind power market to its core. You know what they say about waking the sleeping tiger, right?

For the past several years, other nations (notably the UK, China, Belgium, and Denmark) have been going at the offshore wind industry hammer and tongs while the US industry has been practically comatose, with just a couple of demonstration-scale projects to its credit. Cape Wind is going to change all that.

Cape Wind commissions wind turbines from Siemens.

Cape Wind artist rendition (cropped) courtesy of Energy Management Inc.

How Significant Is Cape Wind?

To give you an idea of offshore wind power potential in the US, a Stanford University study from 2009 estimated that the Atlantic Coast alone could provide enough offshore wind power for about one-third of the US, which translates into every major city along the eastern seaboard and everything in between.

As the first commercial offshore wind farm in the US, Cape Wind will be the anchor for a coordinated, multistate effort to tap into that potential, through an initiative launched by the Obama Administration called the Atlantic Offshore Wind Consortium.

As the first of its kind, Cape Wind illustrates the many hurdles faced by the US offshore wind industry, including local, state and federal permitting issues as well as lawsuits from landowners and other stakeholders in the Cape Cod region.

The expectation is that lessons learned from getting Cape Wind off the drawing board will help streamline the process in other coastal states. The Department of Energy is already anticipated that nationally, installed US offshore wind capacity will grow from virtually zero to 3.5 gigawatts in the next five years.

The Cape Wind Project and Siemens Wind Turbines

Cape Wind started picking up speed in 2011, when the project got its Department of Energy permit.

Cape Wind will consist of 130 wind turbines with a combined capacity of up to 420 megawatts. Its developer, Energy Management Inc., estimates that even in average winds the turbines will generate enough electricity for about three-quarters of Cape Cod and its islands.

Last spring, the project passed an important financing milestone, and the new contract with Siemens was just announced earlier this week, on December 23.

The contract calls for Siemens to provide its 3.6 megawatt offshore wind turbines along with a 15-year service agreement.

Green Jobs And Offshore Wind Power

Although Siemens’s global home is Germany, the company is careful to note that its US projects come along with US jobs and investment. According to company figures, about 60,000 people already work for Siemens in the US, and management of the Cape Wind contract will be conducted from US offices:

Siemens opened its North American Offshore Wind Office in Boston in 2010 to be closer to its U.S. and Canadian customers, and specifically to work with Cape Wind. Project management for the Cape Wind project will be managed from the Boston office, while the ESP [electric service platform] scope of work will be managed from the Company’s Transmission operations in Cary, North Carolina, and the long-term maintenance program will be managed from the company’s Americas headquarters located in Orlando, Florida.

Components for the Cape Wind’s offshore electric service platform (the part of the project that converts voltage from the turbines) will also be manufactured in Maine under a subcontract to the US firm Cianbro.

It’s worth noting that Maine’s political image has been somewhat mixed under the leadership of Governor Paul LePage, who has touted global warming as a good thing for the state’s economy, but Maine Senator Angus King has been a vocal advocate for climate management and he had this to say about the state’s role in Cape Wind:

I am very pleased that Cianbro, a Maine-based company and partner in UMaine’s floating offshore wind project, will join forces with Siemens and Cape Wind of Massachusetts to produce the offshore substation for an industry-leading offshore wind farm. By helping to generate renewable energy, and by putting New Englanders to work in the process, projects like this will not only benefit our environment, but our economy as well.

About Those Offshore Wind Turbines…

Energy Management went with an established global leader when it selected Siemens for the contract. The turbines are the same model used in a number of existing offshore wind farms and Siemens already has contracts to provide it for eight upcoming offshore projects.

Siemens’s SWT-3.6-120 model is designed specifically for sites with constrained capacity (the company also offers a model with a slightly higher capacity of 4.0 MW).

As part of an integrated offshore system, the turbines are equipped with a generous helping of automatic and remotely operated equipment, including Siemens’s proprietary WebWPS SCADA system, a vibration monitoring system that enables web-based reprogramming, and a self-diagnosing controller.

The turbines are also designed to start up automatically when wind speeds average about ten mph, increase their output at a steady rate as wind speed rises up to about 30 mph.

The turbines automatically “feather” into shutdown mode when wind speeds get too high (about 56 mph), and automatically reset once wind speeds drop.

The Solyndra Of Wind Power, Or Not

Let’s note for the record that Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, had Cape Wind in his sights last year, which is no surprise considering the Congressman’s reputation as a climate change denier.

With Issa sniffing around Cape Wind’s approval process, the predictable result was that conservative media began comparing Cape Wind to the notorious Solyndra bankruptcy.

As with so many of the Congressman’s investigations, the Cape Wind query appears to have gone nowhere, especially now that the Siemens wind turbine contract has been signed, sealed, and delivered.

However, as recently as October 13, Human Events, which bills itself as a platform for “powerful conservative voices,” was still pounding the “another Solyndra in the making” drum, so stay tuned.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Paul Shaw

    The Cape Wind project was approved in 2011. The plans were for 130 commercial 3.6 megawatt gear driven commercial wind turbines that by todays standards are antique wind turbines. Since 2008 in New England we have seen catastrophic gear box failures in land based commercial wind turbines. The repairs cost around 1 million each on the land based turbines. The cost of the underwater copper grid cables between the 130 commercial wind turbines has doubled since 2009 .The cost of the grid cables equals the actual cost of the turbines. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced in 2009 the project cost was 2.6 Billion today that cost exceeds 4 Billion dollars – You have to ask why the news media is ignoring the facts do they have an iron in this fire ?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Poor Paul. He’s going to have to spend a few pennies more a month in order to help offshore wind technology get off the ground in the US.

      Paul wants to be a free rider and let the citizens of other states do his share of the lifting.

  • A great book is “Cape Wind”. Here’s my review and summary of it:


  • rkt9

    I hope they build them high enough to compensate for sea level rise. In which case that event occurs, they may provide enough electric for all the US.

    • Omega Centauri

      What is the likely (or even high end of the tail) SLR for the lifetime of a WT (30years at most)? Likely less than a foot. A foot in 30years is more than a meter a century -considered highish by climate scientists -and the rise will be quicker after 2050 than before.

  • driveby

    Pretty clever to get the first big project done by some people who know the ins&outs of that biz. Later down the road, after everyone has taken notices the Americans will just copy that process.
    It’s how the Chinese do it, no? 🙂

  • Matt

    Oh and the PTC question, did the Cape meet the “has to have started physical construction or committed five percent of the project’s costs by the end of the year to be eligible for the credit” Dec 31 deadline?

    • Bob_Wallace

      No. Construction not started.


      “The federal government’s energy investment tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year, and unless Congress renews it once lawmakers return to Washington after the holidays, only projects that have begun construction or incurred 5 percent of a project’s total capital costs by the end of 2013 qualify.

      Cape Wind will not begin major construction until next year at the earliest, but Gordon said the Siemens deal and other capital investments mean the project should meet the threshold for the credits.

      The Internal Revenue Service will have the final say. A spokesman for the IRS declined to comment yesterday.

      Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, one of the most vehement opponents of the Cape Wind project, said Gordon is “clearly having trouble” nailing down finances for Cape Wind.

      The Siemens announcement, coming so close to the Dec. 31 tax-credit expiration date, is “just an attempt to qualify for the credits,” Parker said.

      In addition, Cape Wind is still facing multiple legal challenges, Parker said.”

      My guess is that Congress will pass more subsidies for 2014. They’re going to get a fair amount of pressure from windy state governors who are largely Republican.

  • Will E

    The (“BUY AND BURN”) economy crisis.
    People spent billions on burning gas petrol diesel nukes coal.
    With wind solar heat pump EV cars people are able to make that money themselves.
    start make money yourself
    do not burn what you buy.
    buy solar
    buy heat pump
    buy EV car
    stop the burn, make 1000ends of dollars a year, every year.

    • I have solar, a heat pump water heater and a plug-in car… saves 1,000’s…

  • Omega Centauri

    At last.
    Issa’s fabrications are well known, if only the press would take note.

  • Matt

    “According to company figures, about 60,000 people already work for Siemens in the US”
    Siemens is a fine company, but a big one. So that 60k includes lots of thing, like >1k doing software development in Cincinnati Ohio. In the context of wind it would be more interesting to include a number of wind related jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it is a international market, and that the US is in the bed we are because of misdirection of our “national energy” policy (“If it down burn it don’t earn”).

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