First US offshore wind farm gets the go ahead

Ken Salazar visits Cape Wind site

US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar yesterday gave the go ahead for the country’s first offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts.

The $1 billion Cape Wind project has spent nearly a decade in the consultation and review stage thanks to strong opposition from influential residents including the Kennedys and local Native American tribes.

But Salazar said that after careful consideration of the concerns, the public benefits weight in favour of the project.

“With this decision we are beginning 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,” he said.

However, in deference to concerns about the impact of the Cape Wind project on the local environment and its proximity to sites sacred to the Wampanoag and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribes, Salazar has required the developer to reduce the number of turbines from 170 to 130.

In addition, if the develop makes any archaeological finds underwater during construction, the whole project may be halted.

“The need to preserve the environmental resources and rich cultural heritage of Nantucket Sound must be weighed in the balance with the importance of developing new renewable energy sources,” commented Salazar.

When completed, the Cape Wind facility will have a maximum capacity of 468 MW and an average estimated output of 182 MW – enough to power over 200,000 homes or 75% of local demand in Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

The move could mark the start of a boom in offshore wind, which represents a potential energy resource of 1000 GW in the Atlantic alone.

“This bold step by the Obama administration sends a signal that the US is serious about securing its energy future and is willing to take action to make that happen,” says Tom King, president of National Grid.

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Related stories:
US wind industry installed over 10,000 MW in 2009 (9-Apr)
US wind potential higher than previously thought (25-Feb)
US could shift to 20% wind by 2024, but needs grid upgrade (21-Jan)
New York launches call for offshore wind power on Great Lakes (7-Dec 2009)
Offshore wind could meet entire US electricity demand (9-Apr 2009)

29 April 2010