Apr 28, 2010 2:16 PM by Melissa Canone
BOSTON (AP) - 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 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.
Approval of the project would break new ground in the drive
toward renewable power, Massachusetts Environmental Affairs
Secretary Ian Bowles said.
"This will be the shot heard around the world for clean
energy," he said.
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.
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.
Massachusetts 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.
But Cape Wind met with heavy resistance from people who wanted
it moved out of the sound, and its opponents are expected to
continue to try to derail the project in court.
Critics say the project endangers wildlife and air and sea
traffic, while marring historic vistas. The late U.S. Sen. Edward
Kennedy fought Cape Wind, calling it a special interest giveaway.
The wind farm would be visible from the Kennedy family compound in
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.
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
"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.
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.
Opponents also said the power from the pricey Cape Wind project,
estimated to cost at least $2 billion, would be too expensive.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, a Republican, 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.
Cape Wind appeared close to final approval in January 2009 when
the lead federal agency reviewing the project, the Minerals
Management Service, issued a report saying the project posed no
major environmental problems.
But two Wampanoag Indian tribes claimed the project would ruin a
sacred ritual that requires an unblocked view of the sunrise over
the sound, and would be built on long-submerged tribal burial
Early this month, a federal historic council backed tribal
claims and recommended Salazar reject the project, citing its
"destructive" affects on views from dozens of historic sites. The
governors of six states, including Patrick, last week urged Salazar
to ignore that advice, saying that would make it nearly impossible
to site offshore wind projects on the Eastern Seaboard because so
many offshore wind farm sites are visible from historic properties.
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