Salazar announces Cape Wind approval

The Interior Department has approved the Cape Wind project that is slated to be the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the green light early Wednesday afternoon for the 130-turbine project, which will be located in federal waters in Nantucket Sound off the Massachusetts coast.

Several other projects off Atlantic coast states such as Delaware and New Jersey are in the planning stages as well, and Salazar has said that tapping abundant offshore wind resources is a priority.

“Cape Wind will be the United States’ first offshore wind farm, supplying clean power to homes and businesses in Massachusetts,” Salazar said at a press conference in Boston. “This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic Coasts in years ahead.”

The project has been controversial during the developer’s nearly decade-long effort to secure state and federal permits.

Opponents have included the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and some American Indian tribes, who have alleged the turbines will disrupt a traditional sun ceremony and cover an area that’s an ancient burial tract.

Interior said it is imposing several conditions on the project to address concerns.

From Interior’s announcement:

Because of concerns expressed during the consultations, Interior has required the developer to change the design and configuration of the wind turbine farm to diminish the visual effects of the project and to conduct additional seabed surveys to ensure that any submerged archaeological resources are protected prior to bottom disturbing activities.   

Under these revisions, the number of turbines has been reduced from 170 to 130, eliminating turbines to reduce the visual impacts from the Kennedy Compound National Historic Landmark; reconfiguring the array to move it farther away from Nantucket Island; and reducing its breadth to mitigate visibility from the Nantucket Historic District. Regarding possible seabed cultural and historic resources, a Chance Finds Clause in the lease requires the developer to halt operations and notify Interior of any unanticipated archaeological find.

The project will generate enough emissions-free power to meet 75 percent of the electricity needs of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, according to Interior.