Renewable energy leaps forward, with OK for 130 Cape Wind offshore turbines

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 20 - The Interior Department has given the controversial Cape Wind Energy Project final approval so that construction of the nation's first offshore wind farm could begin as early as this fall. The remaining obstacles are that Cape Wind still has to raise more money for the project and still has to sign up more customers to buy its electricity. The project also faces continuing legal challenges from opponents concerned about potential environmental impacts.

 Together we can feed the Bees

The offshore Lillgrund wind farm in Sweden, providing electricity to 60,000 homes since 2008. Photo: Siemens press picture.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the approval by Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) means that “we are even closer towards ushering in our Nation's first offshore wind energy facility while creating jobs.” The approval covers Cape Wind's latest Construction and Operations Plan (COP) which calls for 130 wind turbine generators. Each 3.6 megawatt unit will have a maximum blade height of 440 feet, to be arranged in a grid pattern on the outer continental shelf in Nantucket Sound, offshore Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Island. The 468-megawatt project is expected to cost over $2.6 billion to build and to provide electricity for some 200,000 homes once completed.

American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Denise Bode said “Offshore wind power is the new frontier for our industry. Thank you to Secretary Salazar for being a champion of offshore wind and for his commitment to making this industry a reality. The Secretary understands the manufacturing and job opportunities that offshore wind brings to America and knows that it needs long-term policy support in order to do so.”

Based on Interior Department evaluations, BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich said that “After a thorough review of environmental impacts, we are confident that this offshore commercial wind project - the first in the nation - can move forward. 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.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said that with the approval, “we are one step closer to benefiting from the clean energy, green jobs and long-term economic benefits that will result from creating the nation's first offshore wind farm. States up and down the East Coast are now looking to Massachusetts with envy as we launch this brand new American industry.”

BOEMRE has issued a Record of Decision for the Construction and Operations Plan approval, detailing the terms and conditions that Cape Wind Associates will need to follow.

A notice about the preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) was posted on the BOEMRE website in February which initiated a comment period and provided an opportunity for public input. BOEMRE received and considered approximately 160 comments during the comment period. Issues considered in the EA included: additional surveys and sampling, conflicts with aviation traffic and fishing use, emergency response, migratory birds, microclimate, oil within wind turbine generators, permits issued by other federal agencies and consultations with other agencies.

To read Interior Department documents on the Cape Wind Energy Project, including the complete set of Construction and Operations Plan (COP) filings, click HERE.

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