Cape Wind Project Underway to Bring First U.S. Offshore Wind

By Wesley Roberts •  Updated: 01/18/09 •  4 min read

The Cape Wind Project, a wind farm of 130 turbines to be built in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Cape Cod, can finally move forward as they have been given a green light by the U.S. Minerals Management service. Leaders from labor, civic, and environmental groups across Massachusetts and the country hailed the release of the report, as it is the final federal environmental report needed for the long-delayed and much scrutinized project to finally move forward.

When completed, Cape Wind will be capable of supplying up to 420 megawatts of electricity, potentially offsetting as much as a million tons of carbon emissions and saving more than 100 million gallons of oil every year. But the environment won’t be the sole beneficiary of Cape Wind.

It will likely be a boon to out-of-work Massachusetts residents, as well, given that as many as 1,000 green jobs could be brought to the Bay State in addition to a significant supply of clean, renewable energy.

Renewable Energy Revolution

Approval of Cape Wind represents the dawn of an energy revolution in Massachusetts and the nation. With new administrations in both Washington and on Beacon Hill supportive of renewable energy, we believe Cape Wind signals the beginning of a new national commitment to safe, clean, and renewable energy, said Kate Smolski, Greenpeace global warming campaigner.

The footprint for the proposed project covers 24 square miles, 15.8 miles from the island town of Nantucket. The project envisions 130 horizontal-axis wind turbines, each having a hub height of 440 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty, which stands at 305 feet.

The blade diameter is 364 feet. The turbines would be sited between 4-11 miles offshore depending on the shoreline. This is enough to meet the needs of 420,000 homes.

Currently, 45% of the Cape region’s electricity comes from the nearby Canal Power Plant in Sandwich, which burns bunker oil and natural gas. The Cape Wind proposal is relatively unique in that it would directly offset petroleum usage unlike most of the country where electrical power generation from oil is rare and coal power is more common.

Oil Spills Could Decrease

Additionally, this project would decrease the amount of oil shipped to the Cape Cod power plant; fuel for this plant has been part of two major oil spills. The first was on December 15, 1976 when the tanker Argo Merchant ran aground southeast of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts spilling 7.7 million U.S. gallons of oil.

The second occurred in April 2003, when a Bouchard Company barge carrying oil for the Mirant Canal Generating Plant ran aground spilling 98,000 gallons of oil, which killed 450 birds and shutdown 100,000 acres of shellfishing beds.

The developer of the project, Cape Wind Associates, first applied for a permit to build the windfarm in 2001. Over the next seven years, the Cape Wind project has had a tumultuous road to approval in which it was rigorously reviewed by numerous agencies at both the state and federal levels.

Cape Wind Permit Process

At the local level, Cape Wind received conditional approval from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, a favorable final environmental impact review from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and approval from the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board.

The project received final environmental approval from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on March 30, 2007.

At the federal level, Cape Wind received a favorable Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in November 2004 and a favorable Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the U.S. Minerals Management Service in January 2008. With the release of the favorable FEIS the next step is for the new Obama Administration to issue the final permits so the project can begin construction.

Public Opinion

According to opinion polls, Cape Wind is supported by a vast majority of Massachusetts residents. And for good reason: It is estimated that the project will provide Cape Cod, Marthas Vineyard, and Nantucket island with three-quarters of the region’s electricity needs.

Better yet given the difficult economic times we find ourselves living in, Cape Wind is expected to directly create approximately 400 green construction jobs and hundreds of additional new green-collar jobs to service and supply the wind farm.

Cape Wind is also supported by a large coalition of labor, business, environmental, and civic groups across the country because of its implications for the future of Americas energy mix and its economic promise. Now is the time to put to rest the notion that a healthy economy and a healthy environment are in conflict.

Cape Wind represents the best example of how new development can provide both new jobs and a new source of clean and renewable energy. It is the right project, in the right place, at the right time.

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