Offshore Cape Wind Farm Gets the Go-Ahead

The controversial Cape Wind Energy Project – to be constructed in Nantucket Sound between Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts – has been given the green light by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.  “The Department has taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on environmental and cultural resources of Nantucket Sound,” Salazar said.

The nation’s first offshore wind farm,  Cape Wind will see 130 wind turbine generators constructed; each will have a maximum blade height of 440 feet and will be arranged in a grid pattern several miles offshore.  When completed, Cape Wind will produce enough electricity to power about 400,000 homes on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement approved the wind farm’s construction and operation.

Cape Wind – which was first proposed 10 years ago — has faced opposition from everyone from local Indian tribes to fishermen to the Kennedy family, whose six-acre compound in Hyannis Port overlooks Nantucket Sound.  “Taking 10 years to permit an offshore wind project like Cape Wind is completely unacceptable,” Salazar said.  Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) said “Let’s get this wind project built, and keep this American clean energy momentum pushing us ahead like a down east breeze.”

The opposition did not resonate on the national level and so the Interior Department used Cape Wind as a test case for offshore energy projects and green-lighted one major regulatory step after another.  Those who forcefully opposed the wind farm include The Cape Cod Times, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and the government of the Town of Barnstable.  Many older residents say resistance to Cape Wind was an exact copy of the opposition to the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park 50 years ago.

According to Salazar, the Cape Wind project could create as many as 600 to 1,000 jobs, and jump start a network of similar renewable wind farm projects up and down the Atlantic coast, which has the potential for tens of thousands of new jobs for Americans.  He criticized the process, which delayed the construction of America’s first offshore wind farm for 10 years, saying, that the Obama administration wants to streamline the permitting process in the future.  “After a thorough review of environmental impacts, we are confident that this offshore commercial wind project — the first in the nation — can move forward,” said Michael Bromwich, who directs Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation, and Enforcement.  “This will accelerate interest in the renewable energy sector generally and the offshore wind sector specifically, and spur innovation and investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure.”

While Cape Wind has found a buyer for 50 percent of its output, it has not for the other half.  Dennis Duffy, Vice President, said the company was “confident” it would find a customer for the other half.  The approval comes as the state proposed to redefine a different federal ocean area that also is under consideration for offshore wind.  The state wants the federal government to remove approximately half of a 3,000-square-mile area south of Massachusetts from potential wind development to protect vital fishing grounds.

“We submitted a proposal that would move the Commonwealth towards (making Massachusetts the nation’s offshore wind energy leader) while safeguarding waters important to our commercial fishing industry,” said Richard K. Sullivan Jr., state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.