Off-shore wind is raising debates not just in Delaware, but also in another state and in Congress.
Massachusetts has been a battleground for an off-shore wind company and its proponents and opponents for six years.
The state’s environmental regulatory agency just gave approval on Cape Wind’s environmental impact report. Cape Wind is proposing a wind farm with 130 turbines about five to 10 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.
While Cape Wind still has at least one more year of permitting from other Massachusetts and federal agencies, getting approval from the environmental agency was a significant step on the way to putting in what could be the country’s first off-shore wind project. But it remains unclear what effect, if any, Cape Wind will it have on Delaware’s proposed project and others still to come.
“I think we have been charting a new trail for other off-shore wind farms that will come after us, and I hope for their sake they’ll have an easier path than we’ve had,” said Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind.
Cape Wind’s project has been rocky, with a vocal opposition expressing concerns about the effect off-shore wind turbines would have on fish and bird populations, tourism and property values and fighting the project in court. It is also the first proposed off-shore wind project in the country, raising many questions about the permitting process.
But whether the situation in Massachusetts will affect Bluewater Wind’s project remains to be seen.
“I think it’s too early to tell whether it helps or hurts, but any momentum will support additional off-shore wind projects,” said Jim Lanard, a spokesman for Bluewater Wind. “We do not expect to run into the major hurdles that Cape Wind has experienced, and therefore predict that our approval process will be considerably shorter than theirs.”
Bluewater Wind must jump over many regulatory hurdles on both the state and federal level to complete the project. Lanard said it will take two full years, adding he’s confident the approval process will be finished as quickly as possible.
“I think both the federal and state governments recognize the threats to global warming and the need to move toward energy independence,” Lanard said. “As a result they will work as expeditiously as possible to review and permit proposed off-shore wind facilities.”
Bluewater Wind, like Cape Wind, has to get approval from the state’s environmental agency. While Bluewater Wind’s project would not fall in Delaware’s territorial water, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control would still have some permitting authority over electrical transmission lines, said Phil Cherry, an environmental program administrator for DNREC.
“We would be curious about what type of habitat [the transmission lines] would disturb, if they would stay buried, whether it would affect any fishing resources we have,” Cherry said. “I think there’s an aesthetic aspect to this that might generate some comment, although our rules over aesthetics are scant.”
Cherry said there would be public notice and the opportunity for hearings, and DNREC would take public comment into consideration.
The Interior Department’s Mineral Management Services is drawing up regulations for off-shore wind farms, Cherry said. That arm of the Interior Department is responsible for managing off-shore oil and natural gas operations, and extending the authority to off-shore wind is a logical extension of that, he said.
In addition, many other state and federal agencies have to approve the project, including to state permits, the federal government also needs to approve. Federal agencies include the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard.
By Sara Smith
10 April 2007
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