Top of Mind: Jim Gordon, Extended Version

You’re a businessman. If you were drawing up a pie chart, how much of Cape Wind is about business opportunity, and how much is about ushering in a bigger change?

JG: That’s a fair question. When you’ve worked as long as we have on this project, and you’ve overcome the obstacles that we have, you cannot be driven by just business principles. …I say in large part, of course, we want this project to be successful. If it isn’t, we’re not going to attract the [financial resources] we need. But I’ve made my career developing cleaner and more efficient energy projects in New England. I didn’t parachute in from another land—we’re a Massachusetts company that has been working in this field for 35 years, and we’re very excited about the direction of our energy future.

There’s another company, First Wind, that has been through the regulatory process and has worked to get projects going onshore. Seems to me that, from a business perceptive, you could have picked easier places to pursue a wind farm than [between the Cape and Islands].

If you look at the East Coast and you realize how densely populated the land is, the major component of wind power is going to come from offshore wind. And as the technology advances incrementally, we’ll be able to go farther offshore. But somebody had to step up.

The Europeans have been doing this since the early ’90s. The United Kingdom is expecting to get 30 percent of their energy from offshore wind—they just announced a 630-megawatt project off the Thames estuary. There are offshore wind farms operating in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy—we’re falling way behind, yet we have some of the largest offshore wind resources in the world.
…It’s an interesting thing. With oil, coal, and natural gas, you can truck, pipe, or barge it. Because of that reason, historically, power facilities have been located in lower socioeconomic areas, in poorer neighborhoods without the necessary political influence. So there’s really an environmental justice issue here. My point is unlike with oil, and coal, and natural gas—which you can barge, truck, or pipe— with wind, you can’t do that. You have to locate the facility where the wind is….

During the Revolutionary War, the British embargoed salt, something General Washington desperately needed for medicine, for the horses, to salt cod. The Continental Congress put out a penny-a-bushel incentive for the colonists to make salt here. People on the Cape and Islands responded—they had the salty sea and wind, and soon windmills dotted the landscape. They made salt and aided the war effort. In the 1800s, folks from New Bedford, Nantucket, and Cape Cod lit the lamps of the world for industrial machinery. They created energy from whales—they perfected the art, and soon they were managing whaling fleets as far as the Pacific Ocean. In World War II, we took these deep-water ports and made ships to fight fascism. We have the marine and cultural heritage and history. We’ve responded to urgent challenges all throughout our history. What better place to locate America’s first offshore wind farm than in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts?