Cape Wind’s offshore dreams get the green light

» By | Published 30 Aug 2012

While the US wind power sector is currently facing challenges from the ongoing economic crisis and political uncertainty over whether politicians will extend the industry’s largest tax incentive, it received some more positive news recently: the nation’s first proposed offshore wind farm does not pose a threat to aviation.

Last week’s announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is thought to clear the last federal, state and local regulatory obstacle holding up development of Cape Wind, a controversial 130-turbine wind farm to be built off Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound.

“The proposed wind turbines do not exceed obstruction standards and do not have a physical or electromagnetic radiation effect on the operation of air navigation facilities,” the FAA ruling concluded.

Mark Rodgers, Cape Wind’s Communications Director, said the company is now closer to creating the public benefits of cleaner air, greater energy independence and new jobs.

“Cape Wind will jump start America’s offshore wind industry and make Massachusetts a global leader in offshore wind,” Rodgers said in a press release issued after FAA announcement giving the go-ahead.

In an interview, Rodgers said Cape Wind now has all the necessary permits and construction is expected to begin in 2013.

Cape Wind has a commercial lease as well as a construction and operations plan. The company has also sold more than 75% of its power in long term Power Purchase Agreements with Massachusetts electric utilities.

During the past 11 years, the €2 billion project, which is being developed by Energy Management Inc., has faced many bureaucratic challenges including four separate “Determination of No Hazard” rulings from the FAA finding that it doesn’t pose any threats to aviation.

The influential Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) said the ruling would allow the project, which aims to produce 420 megawatts of emissions-free electricity, to proceed and deliver on its tremendous promise of clean, home-grown energy.

“Importantly, the FAA made its determination while acutely aware that its decision-making is under a microscope in light of opponents’ work to gin up a congressional witch-hunt over Cape Wind’s approvals,” Sue Reid, Director of CLF’s Massachusetts office, said.

“Today’s decision should put to rest those challenges initiated by dirty energy-funded opponents. America already has waited too long for its first offshore wind project to go forward.”

Meanwhile, the fight to extend the US Production Tax Credit (PTC) is increasingly becoming an issue as politicians gear up for the final phase of the federal election in November.

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for President, would end the tax credit while Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, has said he favours the PTC.

The American Wind Energy Association says about 27,000 wind-related jobs could disappear if the PTC is not extended before the end of the year.