US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was in Massachusetts today to announce that the Department of Interior is approving the Cape Cod offshore wind farm.
The project has been incredibly contentious in Massachusetts, resulting in a nine-year delay on moving forward and the development of unusual political fissures in the state. The project was famously opposed by the late Ted Kennedy who was thought to have been worried about its impact on the Nantucket Sound–a prime yachting corridor. Other Massachusetts politicians, including Governor Deval Patrick, have been key supporters, recognizing the economic development potential and the environmental benefits from an expansion of wind energy.
Salazar did make some concessions to opponents. The project will be smaller than initially anticipated with 130 turbines, rather than 170, approved. Salazar also indicated that the developer will have to do more marine archaeological surveys and reduce the visual impact of the turbines.
Given how prevalent the off-shore wind development is in Europe, it is amazing that the Cape Wind project will be the first of its kind in the US. Much of the delay has been due to the lack of federal leadership on the issue. Thankfully, Salazar recognized this problem and said that nine years of review for a project is excessive and that the process should be more “rational and orderly.”
He also indicated that today’s approval of Cape Wind should be seen as a signal that the approval process should not be so onerous for other projects in development on the Atlantic coast.
There are still hurdles to overcome before Cape Wind is a reality. Although Gov. Patrick said that construction will begin next year, the deregulated electricity market has to be taken into account. Cape Wind will need to sell its electricity to distributors. If the price point is insufficient, this could have an impact on the financing needed to carry out a massive construction project.