Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said Tuesday that the federal government has approved construction of the controversial wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, which could commence this fall.
Cape Wind, a proposed 130-turbine wind farm spanning 25 miles in the Nantucket Sound, has been tangled in a decade-long dispute over issues ranging from increased power costs for customers to the impact on local fishing grounds and water views. The state supreme court rejected those claims and the Obama Administration has been a staunch supporter of the project as a way to create jobs and spur offshore wind development in the U.S.
Salazar said that his agency “has taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on environmental and cultural resources of Nantucket Sound.” He said that construction for the project as outlined by Cape Wind Associates, the developer, could start this fall.
The 420-megawatt project will produce enough electricity to power 400,000 homes in Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement approved the project’s construction and operations plan, a requirement before any Cape Wind construction can begin.
It is the federal government’s latest push to get the project out of the planning phase and break ground. However, financing the project remains a key hurdle. About half of the power will be sold to National Grid PLC (NGG) through a 15-year power purchase agreement but developers have yet to secure contracts for the remaining power.
Earlier this month, the developer started a search for a partner to help finance the first phase of the project, which is expected to cost $1.7 billion for 330 megawatts, a person familiar with the project recently told Dow Jones Newswires. Cape Wind is seeking to raise $500 million in equity and issue debt for the remaining funds.
The wind farm will be laid out in a grid pattern in the Nantucket Sound with turbines that would be supplied by Siemens AG (SI).
Cape Wind Associates could not be immediately reached for comment.
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