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US approves first offshore wind farm

The US Secretary of the Interior has approved the Cape Wind offshore facility, although total capacity will be reduced to 130 wind turbines from the original 170.

The path to approving the 468 MW offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts has not been an easy one, says Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department, but it will be the first of many offshore wind farms along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean

The developer of the US$1 billion facility must agree to additional measures to minimize the potential adverse impacts of construction and operation of the offshore wind farm.

“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,” says Salazar.

“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.”

First US offshore wind farm on ocean shelf

The Cape Wind project will be the first offshore wind farm on the US Outer Continental Shelf and will generate electricity to meet 75% of the demand for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island combined. The project will create 1000 construction jobs and will be one of the largest GHG reduction initiatives in the USA, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 700,000 tons a year compared to conventional power plants.

The developer must also change the design and configuration of the offshore wind turbines to diminish the visual effects of the project and must conduct additional seabed surveys to ensure that any submerged archaeological resources are protected prior to bottom disturbing activities.

Salazar says “extraordinary steps” were taken to evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on traditional cultural resources and historic properties, including consultations with the aboriginal tribes.

By reducing the number of wind turbines from 170 to 130, the visual impacts will be reduced from the Kennedy Compound National Historic Landmark. The offshore wind farm must be reconfigured to move the units further from Nantucket Island, and siting must be reduced to mitigate visibility from the Nantucket Historic District.

The lease will require the developer to halt operations and notify the Department of any unanticipated archaeological finds.

Wind farm balances heritage with need for green power

“The need to preserve the environmental resources and rich cultural heritage of Nantucket Sound must be weighed in the balance with the importance of developing new renewable energy sources and strengthening our nation’s energy security while battling climate change and creating jobs,” says Salazar.

“After almost a decade of exhaustive study and analyses, I believe that this undertaking can be developed responsibly and with consideration to the historic and cultural resources in the project area.”

Salazar disagreed with an Advisory Council’s conclusion that visual impacts from the offshore wind farm provide a rationale for rejecting the siting of the project. The effects on the view are not direct or destructive to onshore traditional cultural properties and the offshore wind turbine array does not dominate the viewshed.

The offshore wind farm is 5.2 miles from the mainland shoreline, 13.8 miles from Nantucket Island and 9 miles from Martha’s Vineyard.

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