Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Wednesday approved the Cape Wind offshore wind farm, completing the last regulatory step for the project which was first propsed for Nantucket Sound about eight years ago.
The project has been delayed throughout the permitting process by opposition from coastal residents who fear the wind turbines, which will be erected five miles from shore, will devalue coastal properties and affect tourism.
Salzar said the developer of the $1 billion wind farm must agree to additional measures to minimize the potential adverse impacts of construction and operation of the facility.
“After careful consideration of all the concerns expressed during the lengthy review and consultation process and thorough analyses of the many factors involved, I find that the public benefits weigh in favor of approving the Cape Wind project at the Horseshoe Shoal location,” Salazar said in an announcement at the State House in Boston. “With this decision we are beginning a new direction in our Nation’s energy future, ushering in America’s first offshore wind energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region.”
The Cape Wind project is expected to be the first wind farm on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, generating enough power to meet 75% of the electricity demand for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island combined.
A number of similar projects have been proposed for other northeast coastal states, positioning the region to tap 1 million megawatts of offshore Atlantic wind energy potential, which could create thousands of wind jobs in manufacturing, construction and operations and displace older, inefficient fossil-fueled generating plants.
Salazar emphasized that the Department has taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on traditional cultural resources and historic properties, including government-to-government consultations with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and that he was “mindful of our unique relationship with the Tribes and carefully considered their views and concerns.”
Because of concerns expressed during the consultations, Interior has required the developer to change the design and configuration of the wind turbine farm to diminish the visual effects of the project and to conduct additional seabed surveys to ensure that any submerged archaeological resources are protected prior to bottom disturbing activities.
Under these revisions, the number of turbines has been reduced from 170 to 130, eliminating turbines to reduce the visual impacts from the Kennedy Compound National Historic Landmark; reconfiguring the array to move it farther away from Nantucket Island; and reducing its breadth to mitigate visibility from the Nantucket Historic District. Regarding possible seabed cultural and historic resources, a Chance Finds Clause in the lease requires the developer to halt operations and notify Interior of any unanticipated archaeological find.
Salazar disagreed with the statement that visual impacts from the proposed wind farm, which will be situated between and at substantial distance from Cape Cod, Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard, provide a rationale for rejecting the siting of the project. "The viewshed effects are not direct or destructive to onshore traditional cultural properties. In no case does the turbine array dominate the viewshed," DOI said in a release.The project site is about 5.2 miles from the mainland shoreline, 13.8 miles from Nantucket Island and 9 miles from Martha’s Vineyard.
Nevertheless, Interior has required the developer to reduce the number of turbines and reconfigure the array to diminish its visual effects. Moreover, the developer will be required to paint the turbines off-white to reduce contrast with the sea and sky yet remain visible to birds.
No daytime Federal Aviation Administration lighting will be on the turbines, unless the U.S. Coast Guard requires some “day beacons” to ensure navigation safety. FAA nighttime lighting requirements have been reduced, lessening potential nighttime visual impacts. The upland cable transmission route was located entirely below ground within paved roads and existing utility rights of way to avoid visual impacts and potential impacts to unidentified archeological or historic resources.
Despite receiving federal approval, the Cape Wind project could still be tied up in the courts, according to an Associated Press article. Read the story at the link below.