Cape Wind Hits Yet Another Hurdle

Cape Wind, the first offshore wind farm in the US, has hit yet another hurdle after finally being granted approval to begin construction this fall.

Last week, the US Court of Appeals rejected the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruling that the project’s turbines do not present a hazard to airplanes.

The court ruled the FAA didn’t adequately justify how 130, 440 foot-tall turbines wouldn’t pose aviation risks.

If, on re-evaluation, the FAA determines the turbines would results in aviation risks, the U.S. Dept of Interior would likely modify or revoke the Cape Wind lease.

Opponents to the project brought the appeal – the Town
of Barnstable and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

"The FAA has reviewed Cape Wind for eight years and repeatedly determined that Cape Wind did not pose a hazard to air navigation," Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers told USA Today. "The essence of today’s court ruling is that the FAA needs to better explain its Determination of No Hazard ruling."

After 10 years of local protests and lawsuits, and regulatory red tape, in April 2011, Cape Wind finally received final approval to begin construction on the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. 

Construction is supposed to start this fall on the 468 megawatt (MW) project, 4.7 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. It would supply 75% of the electricity demand for Cape Cod and the Islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket – more than 200,000 homes.

11 lawsuits are still pending to de-rail the project. Over the years, the project has been held back because of local concerns of losing pristine views and over wildlife concerns. 

Meanwhile, developers are lining up to build bigger offshore wind farms in the area. Neptune Wind wants to build a 500 MW "Nomans Wind" farm 20 nautical miles south of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border and Deepwater Wind is vying to build a massive 1000 MW farm in the same area. 

The Dept of Energy (DOE) estimates offshore wind could supply 20% of US electricity and is working through its "Smart from the Start" initiative to jumpstart the industry. The first project will be off the coast of Delaware, developed by Bluewater Wind Delaware.

Plans for a Mid-Atlantic transmission system are underway. Google joined other investors to finance the Atlantic Wind Connection, which will be able to connect 6,000 MW of offshore wind turbines to the grid. Construction will begin in 2013.

Quite Different in Europe

Europe leads on offshore wind.

The UK is forecast to deploy 1.2 gigawatts (GW) a year in offshore wind in 2012, and exceed 2.5 GW in 2016, stressing the wind supply chain’s ability to keep up, according to RenewableUK.  

While the UK is cutting back on solar subsidies, it extended them to 2015 for offshore wind, with smaller than expected cuts after that.  

Germany’s revised feed-in law also cuts solar subsidies and shifts the emphasis of support to offshore wind and other kinds of renewable energies. The new law resulted in a EUR 1.2 billion private investment for the Meerwind offshore farm and its North Coast is experiencing a "gold rush."

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Read, Why Does US Lag in Offshore Wind?

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