Cape Wind is an offshore wind energy project in Nantucket Sound which will consist of 130 wind turbines producing up to 420 megawatts of energy. The first of its kind in the U.S., it has been in development for more than 10 years.
A U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C. ruled against opponents of Cape Wind in four lawsuits that challenged the project’s permitting approval by the U.S. Department of Interior. The judge upheld the Department of the Interior’s review and approval of Cape Wind, a permitting process that took nearly 10 years. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound originally filed four legal challenges in 2010. William Koch, the billionaire oil man, is the group’s largest funder. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound previously filed 14 lawsuits against the project and all of them failed.
Opponents of the project had a list of legal claims which included environmental impacts. However, national and regional environmental groups support Cape Wind. The project was reviewed by 17 federal and state agencies, producing an administrative record of more than 400,000 pages. The nine-year approval process was “much longer than a traditional coal power plant, which typically gets approval in just two years,” according to the National Resources Defense Council. The project underwent two federal environmental reviews from the Department of Interior and Army Corps of Engineers, and both agencies approved the project. In addition, there were state and local environmental reviews and approvals.
Back in 2010, when the Department of the Interior approved the Cape Wind project, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said that the federal agency conducted a “ lengthy review and consultation process and thorough analyses of the many factors involved” that lasted almost a decade. “I believe that this undertaking can be developed responsibly and with consideration to the historic and cultural resources in the project area,” Salazar said.
Cape Wind could provide enough energy to meet 75 percent of the electricity demand on Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The offshore wind farm is projected to create 600 to 1,000 jobs in Massachusetts. It would also be one of the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiatives in the U.S — reducing carbon dioxide emissions from conventional power plants by 700,000 tons a year, which is equivalent to removing 175,000 cars from the road for a year.
The U.S. has tremendous offshore potential. The Department of Energy estimates that the U.S. offshore wind energy potential along the coasts and Great Lakes could provide 900,000 MW of electricity, which is almost equal to the nation’s current total installed capacity. There are more than a dozen other offshore wind projects being developed in the U.S. Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said that the judgment in favor of the project represents an “incredibly important legal victories for Cape Wind” and helps “pave the way for other coastal regions to utilize this clean energy resource for energy independence, a healthier environment and new jobs.”
Image credit: Igor E.