Money Watchers: Mass. embraces promise of wind energy

A report released Wednesday outlines the possible financial benefits of the offshore wind industry to southeastern Massachusetts.

The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center says wind power is on the rise. Its report shows wind-generated electricity has increased by four times in the last five years. Last year, more new electric generating capacity came from wind than even from natural gas.

Backers gathered in New Bedford on Wednesday to ask the government to keep supporting wind power.

Wind power is not cheap - yet. But proponents said it's getting fewer subsidies than fossil fuel-generated electricity.

"Our subsidy amount last year amounted to $1 billion in avoided taxes collected by the federal government. Whereas the fossil fuel industry gets between $10 billion and $52 billion in subsidies every year," said Joshua Glynn of Aeronautica Windpower.

The Massachusetts state government is making an investment of more than $100 million to build a marine terminal in New Bedford Harbor in anticipation of the Cape Wind offshore wind power project aiming for waters off Nantucket.

That project is still lining up investors. If the government tax breaks remain in place, those investors will make a lot of money.

Cape Wind said it will initially charge consumers more than what it costs to produce electricity traditionally.

"When you look at the effect we have on reducing wholesale market electric prices, that's going to be over $7 billion in reduction. That's larger than any small increase in some people's bills," said Mark Rodgers of Cape Wind.

The state is forging ahead with the infrastructure development, hoping that the wind power industry will keep on growing and bring plenty of jobs along with it.

Rhode Island has its own proposed wind project, which is racing Cape Wind to be the first offshore wind farm in North America.

As far as the costs, Rodgers said the average electric residential customer can expect an increase of $1 to $1.50 a month in their bills if Cape Wind goes online.