U.S. Approves First Offshore Wind Farm

The federal government on Wednesday approved the installation of what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm, off the coast of Cape Cod. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the long-awaited decision in Boston, clearing the way for a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

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After nearly a decade, the developers of a massive wind farm planned for the waters off Cape Cod have their answer. Today in Boston, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the government's approval of the nation's first offshore wind farm.

Secretary KEN SALAZAR (Department of Interior): This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic Coast, which I expect will come online in the years ahead as we build a new energy future for our country.

BLOCK: The 130-turbine Cape Wind project has divided neighbors and environmentalists since it was proposed.

Sean Corcoran of member station WCAI has reaction from Cape Cod.

SEAN CORCORAN: As Secretary Salazar announced that he was approving Cape Wind, Peter Kenney(ph) sat watching television in his office on Cape Cod. He's opposed the project from the beginning.

Mr. PETER KENNEY: I can't say that I'm surprised. I'm disappointed. Of course, I have to read the record decision, but based on what the secretary has said, I think the decision is flawed. And court could be interesting.

CORCORAN: While most national environmental groups, editorial page writers and wind industry insiders have vocally called for Cape Wind's approval. On Cape Cod and the islands, opposition to the project and calls for its relocation have remained steady. On the streets of Hyannis, just a few miles from the home of the region's most prominent Cape Wind opponents, the Kennedy family, residents greeted the news with mixed reactions.

Tiny Ohaedean(ph) of West Armies(ph), said she views the opposition as people who want clean renewable energy projects like Cape Wind but they want them someplace else.

Ms. TINY OHAEDEAN: I don't like that. That NIMBY-ism, whatever done in my backyard, it doesn't work. I just think we need to do as much as we can to alleviate the problems in the high cost of electricity and everything else, help the environment. So, I'm all for it.

CORCORAN: The project promises to meet two-thirds of the energy needs of Cape Cod and its two islands, but for some people, the idea of installing 130 wind turbines, each 440 feet in height, over a swath of about 24 square miles of Nantucket Sound is unbearable.

Concerns about the project include its effects on fishermen, boaters, migrating birds and aviation radar. Two (unintelligible) Native American tribes also have opposed the project, saying it would prevent them from performing traditional morning sunrise rituals and also may disturb Indian burial grounds now covered by water.

Interior Secretary Salazar says he took those concerns into consideration, but constructing the first offshore wind farm in the United States was just too important.

Sec. SALAZAR: We must acknowledge that Cape Wind has been under various reviews for nine years, nine years. There has been multiple layers of review upon layers of review. Countless meetings, bureaucracy, uncertainty on all sides, conflicts - there is no question that the review of the project in my mind has been thorough.

CORCORAN: In a press conference after the announcement, Jim Gordon, Cape Wind's president and chief advocate, said he knows the project has plenty of opponents.

Mr. JIM GORDON (President, Cape Wind): We would like to reach out and ask them to join our country and community in ushering in a new era of energy security and prosperity.

CORCORAN: With Salazar's approval in hand, Cape Wind could be up, running and generating electricity by the end of 2012. But its construction still was not a certainty. Within a few hours of Salazar's announcement that Cape Wind will go forward, a coalition of opponents, including the Native Americans, vowed to battle the project in the courts.

For NPR News, I'm Sean Corcoran on Cape Cod.

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