Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced his approval for the first wind farm off of US shores. This 468-megawatt project could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from conventional power plants by 700,000 tons annually—the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road.
Cape Wind Associates will build the 130-turbine farm along Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts, about five miles from the nearest shore. The US $1 billion project will cover 24 square miles (roughly the size of Manhattan), and the tip of the highest blade would reach 440 feet above the surface of the water. The project could produce enough wind power to handle three-quarters of the electric needs of Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (Boston Globe), or 200,000 homes. Supporters say it could also provide 1,000 construction jobs.
Ian Bowles, secretary of the Massachusetts office of environmental affairs, called the announcement “the shot heard ‘round the world for American clean energy” (NYT). “This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast,” Salazar said at a briefing at the Massachusetts State House today, alongside Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who praised the decision.
The path to approval was not an easy one, coming after nine years of reviews, bureaucratic delays and conflict, said Salazar. Opponents have charged that the wind farm will harm birds, fishing, aviation, and historic and cultural sites, as well as drive down property values and damage the area’s aesthetics. “While I support the concept of wind power as an alternative source of energy, Nantucket Sound is a national treasure that should be protected from industrialization,” said Massachusetts senator Scott Brown (Boston Channel). “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.”
Salazar said the decision marks “a new direction in our nation’s energy future, ushering in America’s first offshore wind energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region… [and] a future that will rely less on foreign oil.”
Construction is expected to begin next year, but opponents have vowed to take legal actions to block the project.