(CNSNews.com) – Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar will decide in coming weeks whether a Boston company may proceed with plans to build a major wind farm off Cape Cod, in Nantucket Sound.
Environmentalists, Native American tribes, fishermen and historic preservationists are among those fighting the plan, which has the support of Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, who wants to expand the state’s “clean energy” industry.
On Friday, the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation recommended that Interior Secretary Salazar either deny or relocate the proposed Cape Wind project because its effects would be “pervasive, destructive, and, in the instance of seabed construction, permanent.”
Salazar had been waiting for the advisory council’s recommendations before deciding whether to approve or deny the wind farm project.
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a group formed in 2001 to fight the wind project, called the federal advisory ruling “a great victory for the people of Cape Cod” and others “who care deeply about protecting national treasures like Nantucket Sound.”
The Alliance urged Salazar to heed the federal advisory council’s objections either by rejecting the Cape Wind project entirely or moving it to another “compromise” location.
Cape Wind said although it disagrees with the advisory council’s recommendation, “we are pleased Secretary Salazar now has a complete record in front of him to make the final decision.”
Cape Wind noted that the federal advisory council addressed only one of the many concerns that Salazar will weigh in making a decision about the offshore wind project:
“We’re very hopeful that when Secretary Salazar reviews the complete record he will conclude that the verified public benefits of cleaner air, greater energy independence, hundreds of new American jobs and mitigating climate change will far outweigh any impacts and that he will approve Cape Wind,” the company said in a news release.
“The approval of Cape Wind will launch a whole new industry in the United States of clean offshore renewable energy development that will one day be followed by many other projects that will light up the east coast and create tens of thousands of American jobs.”
Cape Wind’s Web site describes the project this way: “Miles from the nearest shore, 130 wind turbines will gracefully harness the wind to produce up to 420 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. In average winds, Cape Wind will provide three quarters of the Cape and Islands electricity needs.”
But critics, including the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, say wind-generated electricity is expensive to produce. The group also opposes the project on aesthetic, economic and environmental grounds.
Last year, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service issued a favorable environmental impact statement on the Cape Wind project, finding Nantucket Sound’s Horseshoe Shoal to be the “optimal site” for the wind farm.
Assuming the federal government gives final approval for the Cape Wind project, construction would take two years, the company says.
On March 1, Salazar said it was time to conclude the reviews and analysis of a wind farm project that’s been in the planning and permitting stage for about ten years.
“It is clear to me that the consulting parties are not able to bridge their divides and reach agreement on actions to minimize and mitigate the Cape Wind Project’s effects on historic and cultural resources,” Salazar said in a statement. “I am asking the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for their comments and I will then make a final decision on the proposal. The parties, the public, and the permit applicants deserve resolution and certainty.”
In nearby R.I., wind power took a hit a few weeks ago, when the R.I. Public Utilities Commission rejected a 20-year contract that would have allowed Rhode Island’s largest electric utility to buy power from a wind farm that's planned for the waters off Block Island, R.I.
The three-member commission voted unanimously against the power-purchase agreement, saying that the price of power agreed to by the two sides was too high – much higher than the price paid for energy from fossil-fuel power plants and nuclear power plants, as the Providence Journal reported.
Meanwhile, other states are looking to develop their own wind power industries: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell recently signed legislation establishing the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, which would promote the development of the offshore wind industry in Virginia.