Interior Secretary Ken Salazar traveled to Boston today to announce that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) has approved a Construction and Operations Plan for the Cape Wind Energy Project. It’s the latest in a string of federal green-lights for the project, which would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
“The Department has taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on environmental and cultural resources of Nantucket Sound,” said Secretary Salazar. “By signing the Construction and Operations Plan today, we are even closer towards ushering in our Nation’s first offshore wind energy facility while creating jobs.”
Construction could begin as soon as this fall. As approved, Cape Wind would consist of 130 3.6-megawatt wind turbines, each with a maximum blade height of 440 feet. The project would cover approximately 25 square miles in a patch of federal waters between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island, and would have the capacity to produce about 468 megawatts, or enough electricity for 200,000 homes.
“With today’s announcement by Secretary Salazar, 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,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “States up and down the East Coast are now looking to Massachusetts with envy as we launch this brand new American industry.”
But Cape Wind still lacks a buyer for half of the power it is expected to produce, and the project faces no less than eleven different lawsuits. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the primary opponent of Cape Wind, was quick to bring up both of those points in a statement decrying the new approval.
“Today’s announcement was nothing more than the same political posturing from the Obama and Patrick Administrations that we have seen for years, a blatant attempt to declare victory in a battle that is far from over,” said Audra Parker, president and CEO of the Alliance.
U.S. Representative Edward Markey has been outspoken on issues of climate change and clean energy. He issued a statement praising “Massachusetts’ innovation and vision” and federal initiatives to expedite offshore wind energy development.
“Instead of speeding up the permits for the offshore oil industry, the Interior Department should continue their path to quicken the development of wind energy off our nation’s shores, especially in the Atlantic.”
That message is a timely one, coming on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent Gulf oil spill. The worst oil spill in U.S. history, the incident forced a slow-down in offshore drilling and has brought increased scrutiny of the industry.