Cape Wind Gets the First Green Light

The Cape Wind project, which would raise 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod, cleared its first hurdle.©

Backers of the Cape Wind project off the Massachusetts coast saw their stock rise last week when the Mineral Management Service (MMS), the federal agency charged with oversight of mining and related pursuits, gave a positive review to their plan to put 130 windmills across a 25-mile stretch of Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod. In its environmental assessment of the proposed project, MMS looked at the potential effects on water quality, wildlife, air traffic, the fishing industry, recreation and tourism, and found no deal-breaking negative impacts.

Cape Wind wants to generate more than 400 megawatts of clean renewable energy to the electricity grid on an annual basis. Those who are for it say we need to develop more new sources of energy that won’t contribute to the greenhouse effect. Meanwhile, other greens vehemently oppose it, most notably celebrity environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He cites the need to preserve unimpeded scenic vistas (the proposed site is in direct view of the Kennedy family compound) and also the potential disruption of fragile marine ecosystems.

MMS will hold a series of public hearings on the plan in March, and will issue a final decision later in the year on whether or not to formally greenlight the project. Cape Wind says its wind mills could be up and running by 2010 once it gets final federal approval (state approval was already given in March 2007).

The project is now one step closer to becoming reality, but opponents are hunkering down to mount legal challenges to any pro-development decision made by the Bush administration"s MMS. The prime opponent is the heavily funded Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which declared that the MMS review "misses the mark in at least two key areas," including threats to aviation and birds.

Sources: MSNBC; Cape Wind