9 Years & Millions of Lobbying Bucks Later, Cape Wind Gets Federal OK

After nine years in the federal review process, a controversial wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound off the coast of Cape Cod, has won approval today from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. If the 130-turbine project, dubbed Cape Wind, goes through as planned, it will be the first offshore wind farm in the country.

Salazar announced the green light for Cape Wind at a press conference in Boston Wednesday afternoon, just in time to meet a self-imposed deadline. In January Salazar said he would be reviewing the project and that a final decision on Cape Wind would be made by the end of April.

But as Katie has pointed out, Cape Wind has miles yet to go after having this door opened by the Obama administration. Still ahead are potentially lengthy procedures for winning public utility commission approvals, building out the electrical connections, ordering and receiving the turbines, and other issues that will be specifically related to the first offshore wind farm in the U.S.

The Cape Wind project has been the focus of lobbying efforts costing millions of dollars over its nine years in limbo, the Washington Post’s Post Carbon blog notes.

Today’s decision has drawn both criticism and cheers. Supporters are greeting the approval as a victory for green jobs and renewable energy, while critics have decried the project’s potential to spoil wildlife and views (best enjoyed from the stomping grounds of New England’s affluent elite), and desecrate tribal burial sites.

The American Wind Energy Association, an industry group, issued a statement this afternoon urging the creation of a renewable energy standard to help establish long-term market for wind power, both on land and offshore.

The group’s CEO Denise Bode noted that some U.S. turbine manufacturers have announced plans to set up factories in Europe to support the continent’s 20-year-old offshore wind industry, and said stronger incentives are needed to cultivate that manufacturing stateside.

The saga of Cape Wind is far from over, however. In the next chapter, we can expect a court battle to stop to project from going forward.

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