Interior department approves Cape Wind construction plan


Work on the nation’s largest offshore wind farm could begin as early as this fall in Nantucket Sound after a federal bureau on Tuesday approved the construction plan of Cape Wind.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar traveled to Boston Tuesday to announce that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement had signed off on the construction plan.

“The Department has taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on environmental and cultural resources of Nantucket Sound,” Secretary Salazar said. “By signing the Construction and Operations Plan today, we are even closer towards ushering in our Nation’s first offshore wind energy facility while creating jobs.”

The Cape Wind site is located on Horseshoe Shoals about 5 miles from the Cape shoreline, 14 miles from Nantucket and 9 miles from Martha’s Vineyard. When constructed it would occupy a 25-square-mile section of Nantucket Sound and generate a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts with an average anticipated output of 182 megawatts, according to Interior.

At average expected production, Cape Wind could produce enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts.

In a statement Tuesday, bureau director Michael Bromwich said the bureau was “confident” that the commercial project could move forward, adding: “This will accelerate interest in the renewable energy sector generally and the offshore wind sector specifically, and spur innovation and investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure.”

In a statement released by Salazar’s office, Gov. Deval Patrick said “states up and down the East Coast are now looking to Massachusetts with envy as we launch this brand new American industry.”

On the other side

The project’s opponents have ripped it on two fronts — its location in Nantucket Sound and its above-market energy prices — while vowing to prevent its construction.

In a prepared statement, Audra Parker, president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said, “Today’s announcement was nothing more than the same political posturing from the Obama and Patrick Administrations that we have seen for years, a blatant attempt to declare victory in a battle that is far from over.”

Ms. Parker said Cape Wind faces numerous obstacles, including lawsuits, and has not secured the necessary financing or found a buyer for the remaining half of its expensive power.

“Massachusetts businesses have said they would lose thousands of jobs as a result of the higher electric cost burden of Cape Wind, and Massachusetts’ electric ratepayers have loudly opposed the exorbitant cost of Cape Wind when other renewable energy is available at a fraction of the cost,” she said.