Last week, we took a quick look at Matthew Simmon’s Ocean Energy Institute and its proposal to build a 5 gigawatt (GW) offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Maine. This evening we chatted with the Ocean Energy Institute’s George Hart, who explained a few more details of the ambitious plan: Hart says the 5 GW offshore wind farm could cost $5 billion per gigawatt — a whopping total of $25 billion. That’s more than double the amount of investment that T. Boone Pickens’ now-delayed wind farm is supposed to cost.
Hart also explained to us that the nonprofit Ocean Energy Institute, which employs only Hart full time and a couple of other part-time advisers and interns, is looking at a variety of ways to propel its offshore wind plan forward. One of those could be for the Institute to take on the role of project coordinator, including coordinating funding for the project. Hart says that Simmons, who is an energy investor and adviser, has managed this kind of multi-billion-dollar project financing before and has a long list of industry connections. According to an article in Fortune, after he graduated from Harvard Business School in 1969, Simmons helped raise money for a company called Oceaneering, which turned into “one of the country’s fastest-growing and most successful offshore-drilling service companies.”
But the Ocean Energy Institute is a far ways off from coordinating a massive fund raising effort. The Institute could decide to go other routes to help implement its plan as well, like connecting companies and inventors building technology like new offshore turbines and platforms. And if the Institute decides to act as project coordinator it will likely do so several years down the road, as raising funding in these markets is difficult, Hart concedes. “Everything has certainly changed from a year ago,” Hart says, adding that “capital is very tight.”
Hart says the project development process is in “a very slow dance.” Basically, we get the impression that the plan is a proposal without a clear path to how or if it will be implemented. With a price tag like $25 billion it will take a massive undertaking to coordinate.