06 July 2010

Finally! US’ First Offshore Wind Farm OK’d by Interior

by Timothy B. Hurst

Cape Wind, the proposed offshore wind farm near Cape Cod, Massachusetts has won final regulatory approval from the Obama administration.

In what might signal the end of a nine-year long battle for the first offshore wind farm in the United States, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today announced the approval of the 468-megawatt Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts. The decision came at the end of a regulatory and legal process that involved virtually every local, state and federal governing body imaginable, will likely still face legal challenges from opponents including the deep-pocketed Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

The most recent regulatory hurdle came at the hands of the Wampanoag Indian Tribe, which claimed that Horseshoe Shoal, where the project will be located, is the site of ancient burial grounds and a site of important cultural significance for the Tribe.

Salazar said steps would be taken to "minimize and mitigate" the impact of the project that would "help protect the historical, cultural, and environmental resources of Nantucket Sound."

When completed, the project will have the potential to generate 75 percent of the Cape & islands energy needs -- not only in the winter months when the wind resource is strongest, but as was was shown last year, Cape Wind will also be an integral part of smoothing out peak Summer demand.

"This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast," Salazar said at a joint State House news conference with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

Unsurprisingly, Cape Wind supporters were elated with the decision.

“A new offshore wind industry in America is launched today with this decision," said Pam Solo, president, Civil Society Institute. "This is an enormous accomplishment and is as much a victory for citizen participation as it is for clean energy.”

Clean Power Now Executive Director Barbara Hill said Salazar's announcement represented a "landmark decision" that would establish the "region as a national model of sustainability and a clean energy future.”

Despite the fact that 87% of Massachusetts voters support Cape Wind, the country's newest Senator, Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts, went on record criticizing Salazar's decision, calling it "misguided" -- a move he may come to regret if his prognostications do not come to fruition.

"With unemployment hovering near ten percent in Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project will jeopardize industries that are vital to the Cape's economy, such as tourism and fishing, and will also impact aviation safety and the rights of the Native American tribes in the area," Brown said in a statement.

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