Salazar OKs Cape Cod Wind Farm

Video courtesy of NECN

BOSTON — The Obama administration has approved what would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm, off Cape Cod, inching the U.S. closer to harvesting an untapped domestic energy source — the steady breezes blowing along its vast coasts.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his decision Wednesday at the State House in Boston, clearing the way for a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind was in its ninth year of federal review, and Salazar stepped in early this year to bring what he called much-needed resolution to the bitterly contested proposal.

“We are beginning a new direction in our nation’s energy future,” Salazar said.

Ian Bowles, Massachusetts secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, told WBUR that the construction of the wind turbines would start sometime next year.

But members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Martha’s Vineyard have vowed to sue to stop Cape Wind from being built, saying it would interfere with sacred rituals and desecrate tribal burial sites. Others opposed to the project on environmental grounds also have said they’ll sue.

Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, told WBUR that Salazar’s decision was based on politics, not concern for the environment or historical significance.

“The fight is far from over and will ultimately be settled in court based on facts, not on politics,” Parker said.

Salazar said he understood those concerns but had to weigh them against the nation’s need for new renewable sources of energy.

“This is the final decision of the United States of America,” he said. “We are very confident we will be able to uphold the decision against legal challenges.”

Bowles too dismissed the prospects for those looking to sue to halt the project.

“Well, (with) due respect to the opponents of the project, we’ve had seven lawsuits on state-level decisions already and those are now pending at the state Supreme Court,” Bowles said. “So unfortunately, I think litigation has already been the case and I don’t expect major change.”

Cape Wind says it can generate power by 2012 and aims to eventually supply three-quarters of the power on Cape Cod, which has about 225,000 residents. Cape Wind officials say it will provide green jobs and a reliable domestic energy source, while offshore wind advocates are hoping it can jump-start the U.S. industry.

America’s onshore wind industry is the world’s largest, but higher upfront costs, tougher technological challenges and environmental concerns have held back the development of offshore wind farms.

A map view of the proposed Cape Wind site (Jesse Costa/WBUR) (Click to enlarge)

Denmark installed the world’s first offshore wind turbine 20 years ago. China has built its first commercial wind farm off Shanghai and plans several other projects.

The U.S. Department of Energy envisions offshore wind farms accounting for 4 percent of the country’s electric generating capacity by 2030.

Major U.S. proposals include a project in Texas state waters, but most are concentrated along the East Coast north of Maryland, including projects in Delaware and New Jersey.

Gov. Deval Patrick has been an enthusiastic backer of Cape Wind, pushing it as key to the state’s efforts to increase its use of renewable energy. The lead federal agency reviewing the project, the Minerals Management Service, issued a report last year saying the project posed no major environmental problems.

Critics say the project endangers wildlife and air and sea traffic, while marring historic vistas. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy fought Cape Wind, calling it a special interest giveaway. The wind farm would be visible from the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport.

Listen: Sec. Salazar On His Decision


Democrat U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, who represents Cape Cod, said allowing the project to move forward will open “a new chapter of legal battles and potential setbacks” for the wind power industry.

“Cape Wind is the first offshore wind farm to be built in the wrong place, in the wrong way, stimulating the wrong economies,” Delahunt said Wednesday.

Listen: Gov. Patrick Lauds The Approval


Home to some of the best-known beaches in the Northeast, Cape Cod has long been a destination for summer vacations and is famous for its small towns and homes in its namesake architectural style.

The project is about five miles off Cape Cod at its closest proximity to land and 14 miles off Nantucket at the greatest distance. According to visual simulations done for Cape Wind, on a clear day the turbines would be about a half-inch tall on the horizon at the nearest point and appear as specks from Nantucket.

The developers are being required to configure the wind farm to reduce visual effects on the outer cape and Nantucket Island, Salazar said.

Opponents also said the power from the pricey Cape Wind project, estimated to cost at least $2 billion, would be too expensive.

Republican Sen. Scott Brown said the project will jeopardize tourism and affect aviation safety and the rights of the Native American tribes.

“Nantucket Sound is a national treasure that should be protected from industrialization.” Brown said.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • Elizabeth Bernier

    Why do we not hear any news about tidal energy power? It is shown to be more reliable than wind power. Coastal cities would seem to be ripe for this kind of energy. Please respond.
    Thank you.

  • fran

    “The U.S. Department of Energy envisions offshore wind farms accounting for 4 percent of the country’s electric generating capacity by 2030.”

    Wow, a whole 4%…the other 96% will have their rates rise because of the so called cap and trade bill.
    What incompetence.

  • Mike Lovejoy

    Working in the energy sector, a land farm has a payback period of 26 years, yet a turbine generator life span of 20 years if properly maintained. If it was not for all the government money, they would never be built by private industry. Cape Wind executives and special interest will profit from our taxpayer dollars, and the maintenance costs will be sigificantly higher for this project

  • Wm von Brethorst

    Ignoring the facts seems to be the order of the day. If Denmark has 3465 megwatts of wind and with a population and land area approximate that of Massachusetts, but this only provides 19% of their power (most coming from hydroelectric in Norway) and given the average Dane uses less than 1/4 of the power used per person in the US, what are they thinking? These wind units are just going to be dinosaurs in 20 years with underwater cables that will foul the ocean and not really power anything-they can’t. Little know fact-utility scale wind units cannot operate without the grid so are not an independent power source like a small Nuclear or Nat. Gas power plant. They are dependent on the grid and you have to build three to get the power of one because their “capacity factor” is about 30%, or they are available 30% of the time. The maintenenace is astronomical, units in Denmark fail regularly and they only profit the folks making the turbines-there are very few jobs here. If it was not for the tax folks, we would be making hydrogen now becasue it is easy, safe and economical. This is a boondoggle of epic proportions equal to the Titanic. Anyone who knows about wind generation and electrical distribution and is not being paid to keep quiet could tell you so. How about NPR interview someone against with real facts. I am available.

  • Rudolf

    Nine years and there is still not a final approval! Threats to go to court for more delay and expense. Sacred Indian territory, now under water, which may have been dry land thousands of years ago? What bovine excrement. We say we are in favor of renewable resources except if it is in our view. Such foot dragging will kill all useful entrepreneurial enterprises, regardless of merit.

  • http://text.donschaefer.net Don Schaefer

    Cape Wind is not about energy, it is about politics, tax subsidies and investment write-offs, and private profit. Government has really failed to provide leadership in the energy savings we need now and alternative energy development that is years overdue. 4% production by 2030? Billions of taxpayer subsidies to private companies, triple electric rates? Disaster.

    All the time and money spent insisting that Nantucket Sound be used says a lot, and its not about producing energy. There are other sites and other solutions possible. Ten years insisting it be located below a busy air corridor and adjacent to shipping lanes, oil storage in the tens of thousands of gallons on site, strong cultural and environmental objections, construction pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, a giveaway of 25 sq. mi. of an area eligible for national historic trust – this is arrogance of the first order, and does nothing to secure our energy future. Shame on you, Secretary Salazar. Shame on you, Governor Patrick. I had better hopes for your leadership.

  • jen

    Good ole “Hope and Change”!

  • Eleanor Koplovsky

    All the NIMBYs and Barbara Parker should take a trip to Copenhagen. The wind farm there is in Copenhagen Harbor and next to the airport. Obviously, it does not interfere with shipping, fishing or air travel. I could see the widmills from my window at the Hilton Hotel at the airport. The sight of the twirling windmills was like a ballet. It was definitley not unsightly. Also. the windmills are less ugly than the many oil derricks on the Gulf Coast and West Coast in order to supply us oil guzzling cold New Englanders.

  • Verona

    While they did say “4% nationwide by 2030″ the article also said that 75% of Cape Cod energy supply would be provided by this farm by 2012. Excuse me, but that’s nothing short of impressive. I agree 4% is dismal, and should be much higher. It seems, however that the same people complaining about that small percentage nationwide in the next breath are calling this project a loss. How exactly do you expect to increase that nationwide number than by APPROVING and IMPLEMENTING these exact projects locally??? Look to what you do, rather than using other’s reluctance as an excuse for your own inaction. Nationwide solutions occur on a local level. The dismal projection nationwide is precisely the reason why we all need to get over ourselves and accept that the world is changing even if you are not willing to. I am sure planes can fly around. So can the birds, they are very smart and can navigate. If you squint, surely you’ll get over the half-inch dots in the sky, especially if you realize there are more important things in the world than your impeccable vista. (How do you feel about the roadways and electric poles all over the place? Quite handy, aren’t they.) You could just enjoy it as a sign of progress. Or, perhaps you think that we should simply stick to the old ways and continue endangering the wildlife and the environment with fossil fuels?

  • Bonnie

    It is about time Wind Farms took over the grossly inefficient and deadly nuke plants.
    Turbines would be most beautiful on the horizon, as opposed to the mess of wires and leaning poles here in Fort Pierce, FL.
    Our St Lucie Nuke Plant spews daily radioactive materials into the air, our ocean and into the soil.
    All this allowed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which can NEVER protect the public.

    Bravo Salazar! Now lets close down the toxic nuke plant in my backyard and go for the Wind Farm off Fort Pierce, we have a 1st class port for access to the ocean.
    God Bless the World

  • Bonnie

    Bravo to all the forward thinkers to finally use Wind for America.
    Your opposition is shamefully based on selfish limited issues.

    How wise to place the Wind Farm for easy access, especially when this is a prototype.

    God Bless this project, Salazar and Patrick and PLEASE put one in my backyard and remove all the destructive, insidiously toxic NUKE plants from our country. Think Nuke plants are about energy and not the accumulation of money? Think Nuke plants care about public health over profit? Put there scared workers out in the Wind Farm for some fresh air.

    Please Don think of the whole country and not just your small teeny tiny world.

    There is NOTHING more beautiful than to see the epitome of mans love of the planet than
    spinning turbines in the breeze.

    Shame on you little Don

  • Bonnie

    And really Wm von, you don’t see the potential of world destruction in your toxic Nuke plants. What fool could not see this grotesque “boondoggle” of beyond epic proportions?
    They leak DAILY radioactive material into our air, ocean and soil with the blessing of the NRC.
    So, smart man, where shall we begin with converting our BLACK ENERGY of Big Oil, Filthy Coal and poisonous accumulative sludge of Nukes into truly clean GREEN ENERGY?

    Free, unending energy, no 6′ thick walls here, with dire safety and security concerns that never end.
    Please get your head around the worlds needs and stop wasting your time. What’s your clean idea smart man?

  • Bonnie

    And Mr Mike, What is your idea for CLEAN energy. Stop your fear and get with the love of our precious planet.
    And your idea is…….

  • Bonnie

    Oh Fran, don’t be afraid. This is a new world where we are for We the People. One for all, all for one. This is a blessed start in, finally, the right direction.
    Go Solar, Go Wind and Go tidal and all CLEAN GREENS.

  • Bonnie

    Scott Brown, I will become a tourist just to see this Wind Farm in Nantucket.
    Aviation, surely you will tell the pilots the turbines are there….
    Native American tribes rights – Where were you when we stole their land and lives?
    We all are respected must still yield to what is going to benefit the whole the most.
    Your excuses, Scotty won’t stand, we are trying to save the planet here, little selfish man.

  • Bonnie

    And Scotty Brown, How about the destructive, poisonous, industrialization of Black Energy? Are you instead for Big Oil in your pocket, maybe Filthy Coal lobbies you?
    Not just Nantucket, but the whole planet is a “treasure”.

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