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Salazar's Backing Gives Cape Wind Momentum01:59
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A map view of the proposed Cape Wind site (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A map view of the proposed Cape Wind site (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

First he gave the OK to the lease. Now he has signed off on the building permit. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Boston Tuesday to give the go-ahead to Cape Wind Associates to start construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm this fall.

Salazar gave the nod of his trademark cowboy hat to begin construction. Construction, he said, that will only be the beginning of offshore wind development off the East Coast.

"We are in the process of making believers out of skeptics of offshore wind. And this is one of the reasons why this project here is so important," Salazar said.

Strong backing from Salazar and from state government has given Cape Wind big momentum. Opposition groups have filed nearly a dozen lawsuits to hold up the wind energy project, even as they’ve been shifting more of their attention from environmental objections to economic ones.

"This project is a bad deal for Massachusetts ratepayers," said Audra Parker, with the Alliance to Save Nantucket Sound.

Cape Wind has agreed to sell half of its power to National Grid. The Massachusetts utility company said the average household customer will pay about $1.60 more per month. But the other half of Cape Wind’s electricity has not been sold yet.

Dennis Duffy, an executive with Cape Wind Associates, said that’s an open question, but not one that will be an obstacle to breaking ground later this year.

"Obviously we'd like to have it sold by that time, but I don't think that's a prerequisite. We're planning to start by the fall, irrespective of what happens with other transactions," Duffy said.

Duffy said he’s confident Cape Wind will be able to sell all of its power. So far, the other big Massachusetts utility company, NSTAR, has given Cape Wind the cold shoulder.

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This program aired on April 20, 2011.

Curt Nickisch Twitter Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.

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