It’s official: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave the go-ahead to America’s first offshore wind farm. The decision was long-awaited by supporters, who hope that this project will finally spur other offshore wind farms. The 130-turbine, 400-MW power plant will be located in the Nantucket Sound about five miles off the Massachusetts coast. Because it’s visible low on the horizon from Cape Cod, the project has aptly come to be known as Cape Wind.
Anyone who’s followed renewable energy news in recent years has no doubt heard mention of Cape Wind, for it has stirred up a decade-long controversy, despite its ability to create enough wind energy to power 400,000 homes. Supporters call it a major breakthrough for the US wind industry and our collective drive toward cleaner electricity, but powerful detractors have persisted, including late Senator Ted Kennedy, who didn’t like the idea of gazing at wind turbines from his Hyannis Port home, which overlooks Nantucket Sound.
Two Wampanoag Indian tribes delayed a ruling last year by claiming the turbines would disrupt spiritual sun ceremonies and potentially even artifacts on the seabed. Other reasons for controversy have included possible damage to historic sites, birds, fishing, aviation and those who simply see the turbines as an eyesore.
So there’s no doubt that Secretary Salazar’s decision is a big one. One that even he admits will likely have further legal battles to fight, although he is confident that Cape Wind will go forward. It most certainly has the support of other governors on the eastern seaboard. Following a letter to Salazar in opposition by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, six regional governors replied with their own letter insisting the project move on, fearing that Cape Wind’s failure would signal doom for other offshore projects up and down the east coast.
The turbines will stand 400 feet high and dot 24 square miles of ocean. For the wind industry, which grew by 27 percent last year without a single offshore project, this is a major victory. There is high potential for wind power out at sea. Several European countries have proven that, including Germany, Denmark, Spain and Portugal.
German company Siemens AG will supply the turbines for Cape Wind.