First offshore wind farm approved in U.S.; shot in the arm for American cleantech

Federal regulators have approved the nation's first offshore wind farm, a project located off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachussetts.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Federal regulators approved on Wednesday a permit for the nation's first offshore wind farm, a project located off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachussetts.

The decision for the 130-turbine farm comes after nine years of review, and is a $1 billion shot in the arm to the American offshore wind industry, which is far smaller than those in Europe and China.

The permit was awarded by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to private venture firm Cape Wind Associates, and paves the way for utilities to power homes and businesses using electricity generated by powerful ocean breezes.

The project's turbines would be located five miles offshore in Nantucket Sound, and cover 24 square miles.

They will be 440 feet above the water at their highest point, the blade tip.

But the project is far from completion. Several regulatory challenges remain for the project to even begin, according to a New York Times report:

The Cape Wind project has been a matter of fierce contention for years, splitting politicians and environmental groups. While some environmentalists are prepared to go to court to stop the project, other major groups, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, support it.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, whose family compound overlooks Nantucket Sound, had opposed the project, saying it was a giveaway to a private developer. But Mr. [Deval] Patrick, also a Democrat, has supported it.

According to that article, Ian Bowles, secretary of the Massachusetts executive office of environmental affairs, called the news "the shot heard 'round the world for American clean energy."

Several more offshore wind farms have been proposed along the East Coast and around the Great Lakes, whose shallow floors are optimal for such projects.

The arguments for such projects:

  • lean, renewable energy that means less reliance upon fossil fuels.
  • Fewer greenhouse gases emitted.
  • Hundreds of new construction jobs.

The arguments against such projects:

  • Turbines are big metallic poles that mar natural beauty.
  • The energy they produce costs far more than conventional power.
  • Added costs to build and renovate the electrical grid.

In the case of Cape Wind, almost a dozen parties have filed notices of intention to sue for violation of environmental regulations, including the Wampanoag tribe, whose sacred ceremonies require unobstructed views of the sunrise.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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