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A Long Road to Offshore Wind: The US 'Cape Wind Project'

First US offshore wind park has been delayed for years / New England celebrities kept fighting it / Project became issue in presidential election campaign

It was supposed to be the first offshore wind park of the US, but not a single turbine has been installed so far. The 'Cape Wind Project' has instead become another example of the 'Not-in-my-backyard' lunacy led by a bunch of prominent residential opponents and a synonym for one of the biggest fights against clean wind energy by a residential group – a political dimension included.

The Original Plan

Jim Gordon of Energy Management Inc. (EMI) wanted to gain approval for his offshore wind park as early as 2001. He had planed to buy an area in front of the coast of Nantucket Sound Mass., to build an offshore wind park with 130 turbines.

The park was designated to provide up to 75 percent of the energy the islands need. It was also meant to replace a nearby coal and natural gas power plant. A remarkable aspect in favor of the offshore project as the area was already struck by two oil pests in the past. In 1976 an oil-tanker ran aground and spilled 7,7 billion gallons of oil. The second oil spill happened in 2003 when 98.000 gallons poisoned the environment nearly destroying the entire wildlife of the area.

The respective New England area though is famous for its celebrity land and house owners who spend their summers on islands like Cape Cod or Martha's Vineyard and that made trouble foreseeable.

A Coalition of Opponents

Soon a group of opponents called 'The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound' formed and started its work of nuisance. The members highlighted their general support of wind energy but didn't want the turbines installed in front of their homes. Thus they stated their concern for the wildlife and environment of the area. A well known strategy when it comes to the 'Not-in-my-backyard' resistance of single residential groups.

Critics of the alliance considerately pointed out that the alliance members all owned property on the coastline and were likely to simply not wanting to look at the turbines.

There were many prominent members and politicians among the alliance e.g. presidential candidates John Kerry (Dem.) and Mitt Romney (Rep.) and also Senator Ted Kennedy. Because of their political influence the issue filled the media. Mitt Romney made a public statement in his presidential campaign in 2012 that he intended to stop the park from being built.

Project delayed

The alliance proceeded in getting the issue in front of numerous courts which led to remarkable delays in the licensing process. Though most of the other inhabitants of the islands supported the park, the opponent group didn't give in. They e.g. filed a lawsuit in 2010 claiming violation of the Endangered Species Act and other Acts to protect the local wildlife.

Finally in 2012 EMI got the necessary Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) by the state. So now the road is paved for EMI to finally start the construction of the 130 3.6MW turbines which will be provided by Siemens.

Support from the PTC?

But at the moment EMI is looking for further investors. Barclays Bank will provide 2 billion dollars. EMI now needs a further partner to finance the last 0.6 billion. It still remains unclear if the project will get the help of the PTC as the tax incentive will run out again at the end of the year. Construction is supposed to start as soon as the entire sum of money is raised.

It's still at stake if the project will win the title of 'First US Offshore Park' as there are other projects competing.


Capewind.org / Wikipedia / Windfair

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