Within a couple of years, the horizon off Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound may look slightly different to the locals, as well as the droves of tourists who flock to the area during the summer months. On October 6, 2010, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Cape Wind President Jim Gordon signed the first lease agreement for an offshore wind farm that will make its home off the coast of New England’s most populous state.
Cape Wind, a project headed by developer Energy Management Inc., will be America’s first offshore wind farm. Offshore wind farms are already operational off the coasts of European nations, such as Denmark and the United Kingdom.
As the project website states, 130 wind turbines, supplied by Siemens AG, will be positioned, at their closest point, over five miles away from the coast of Massachusetts. The wind farm will generate 420 megawatts of renewable energy, leading to approximately $25 million in savings per year for the New England market.
To help protect the aesthetic beauty of area’s renowned coastline, the turbine towers will be painted to blend in with the horizon. The turbines will operate with very little noise and will have no effect upon television, radio or cell phone reception.
Though this project has been given the state and federal green light, it has faced stiff opposition from organizations such as The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and attorney and lifelong Cape Cod resident, Ted Kennedy, Jr., member of the Kennedy family and the son of late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.
Among the various concerns for this project are the disruption of marine life, potential for oil spills and, the largest point of contention, whether Cape Wind is the most cost conscious renewable energy option for the state and its residents or were politics in play when other renewable energy resources were by-passed in favor of the costal wind farm. This fierce opposition has resulted in numerous lawsuits against the administration of newly re-elected Governor Deval Patrick. The latest was filed a few weeks after the project lease was executed.
According to the project website, Cape Wind is slated to be completed by the end of 2012. New Bedford, The Bay State’s seventh-largest city, has been selected as the staging site for construction of the 130-turbine wind farm.
Lawsuits, money, politics and personal opinions aside, this is a ground-breaking achievement in the push toward greater utilization of renewable energy resources in the United States. We look forward to monitoring the progress of this historical project in Massachusetts.