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Protesters -- Native Americans and environmentalists -- have vowed to sue to try to stop the project after its government approval.   (Source: AP Photo/Julia Cumes)

Cape Wind will provide 468 MW of power at peak capacity. It will be fully operational by 2025 and will look somewhat like this plant -- the Nysted offshore wind farm off the coast of Denmark in the Baltic Sea   (Source: Cape Wind)

Much like with nuclear power environmental advocates find deaf ears in the Obama administration

While no wind resource can be viewed as continuous, off-shore wind tends to be more steady and stronger than land-based wind.  For that reason, off-shore wind is viewed as a very promising form of alternative energy.

It is also controversial.  Property owners hate for their water-front views to be marred by massive, spinning turbines.  Some criticize the wind-farms as too expensive compared to traditional fossil fuel power.  And some environmentalists complain that the farms disrupt shallow-water wildlife.

Despite a concerted effort by environmentalists and the Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah Native American tribes, the federal government has approved the nation's first offshore wind farm.  Much like with the recent nuclear power debate, the pleas of environmental advocates fell on deaf ears with the Obama administration.  Yesterday, the farm was given the go-ahead by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

At a joint State House news conference with Mass. Governor Deval Patrick, Salazar remarked, "This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast.  I am convinced there is a path we can take forward that both honors our responsibility to protect historical and cultural resources and at the same time meets the need to repower our economy with clean energy produced from wind power."

Patrick chimed in, "America needs offshore wind power and with this project, Massachusetts will lead the nation."

The new farm will be built in the Nantucket Sound called Horseshoe Shoal .  It will consist of 130 turbines, each measuring 258-feet tall and producing up to 3.6 megawatts of power.  The total capacity will be approximately 468 megawatts at peak, with an average output of around 170 megawatts.

It is being constructed by Energy Management Inc. (EMI). EMI is a Massachusetts-based energy company.  An independent analyst firm Charles River Associates examined the project as says that it will likely cost $1B USD to $2B USD, but will be able to provide up to $185M USD yearly in power savings.

The government is helping EMI recoup the massive up front investment a bit faster with renewable energy tax credits available to consumers to discount the wind power.  The government will also be offering up $10M USD to help mitigate the impact the plant on local wildlife and on the Native American relics buried in the Shoal.  Still, the project is more independent from taxpayer funding than most.

Mass. Senator John F. Kerry, a former Democratic presidential candidate, cheered the news, stating, "I believe the future of wind power in the Massachusetts and the United States will be stronger knowing that the process was exhaustive, and that it was allowed to work and wind its way through the vetting at all levels with public input.  This is jobs and clean energy for Massachusetts."

The project is expected to provide 1,000 construction jobs over the next few years and create 150 permanent jobs.  It is expected to provide 20 percent of Massachusetts' electricity by 2025 and save over 5 million tons of carbon yearly.

Still the project faces a bit of a fight ahead.  The Native American and environmentalist groups who opposed the project have vowed to ban together and file lawsuits to try to derail the project.

States Audra Parker, president and chief executive of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, "While the Obama Administration today dealt a blow to all of us who care deeply about preserving our most precious natural treasures – this fight is not over.  Litigation remains the option of last resort. However, when the federal government is intent on trampling the rights of Native Americans and the people of Cape Cod, we must act."

Pat Parenteau, who teaches at Vermont Law School, says that the groups are unlikely to be able to obtain an injunction using federal laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.  The best they can do, he believes, is to delay the project's construction by a couple of years.

There are pending off-shore wind projects in Texas and Delaware, as well.

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RE: What a bunch of idiots...
By Solandri on 4/29/2010 3:09:05 PM , Rating: 3
As an environmentalist I am all in favor of this. I like nuclear too, especially when using modern reactor designs and an actual willingness to use Yucca.

I am sorry that we don't have a magic wand to give us unlimited power without any inconvenience.

Yeah, I consider myself an environmentalist too. I think one has to draw a distinction between environmentalist type A (someone who wants to preserve some of the world's natural beauty for future generations, and to prohibit stupid exploitation with little or no regard for the long-term consequences), and type B (someone who thinks the world would be better off if people disappeared from the face of the earth). I like nuclear. And I think we should do wind projects like this if for no reason than to see the real-world practicality and costs once it's in operation.

The thought of a ~$1.5B investment providing a fifth of Massachussetes power is very appealing. Especially since the operating / maintaining cost is neglible.

According to the article, average output is 170 MW. New England uses less electricity per residence than the U.S. average, about 650 kWh / month. That's not evenly distributed through the day, but to favor the wind farm let's pretend it is. That works out to an average energy draw of 890 W per household. So 170 MW would be enough for 191,000 households. Figure 2.5 people per household and that works out to 477,000 people, which is only about 7% of Massachusetts' population.

Add in industrial electricity use and the fact that energy use is not constant throughout the day, and I'd be very surprised if this provided even 3% of Massachusetts' electricity needs. I'm not sure where you got the 1/5th figure, but I think it's safe to say that it's marketing propaganda.

Also, anyone who has operated anything in the ocean will tell you that the operation and maintenance costs will most definitely not be negligible. The ocean is just about the harshest environment you can operate in.

RE: What a bunch of idiots...
By JediJeb on 4/29/2010 5:40:08 PM , Rating: 2
It is expected to provide 20 percent of Massachusetts' electricity by 2025 and save over 5 million tons of carbon yearly.

I think this quote from the article is where he got the 1/5 from.

RE: What a bunch of idiots...
By FITCamaro on 4/29/2010 11:32:45 PM , Rating: 4
I consider myself an environmentalist too. All the gas I burn in my 6L V8 produces CO2 to feed plants.

RE: What a bunch of idiots...
By Kurz on 4/30/2010 10:54:22 AM , Rating: 2
Hey now... there are other things that are actual polutants coming from the tail pipe.

RE: What a bunch of idiots...
By AssBall on 4/30/2010 10:14:43 AM , Rating: 1
It is expected to provide 20 percent of Massachusetts' electricity by 2025 and save over 5 million tons of carbon yearly.

Maybe they should use "lied about, hoped for, prayed to..." instead of "expected" to.

RE: What a bunch of idiots...
By Keeir on 4/30/2010 4:46:01 PM , Rating: 2
And even at 170 MW average, it will have a very high utility factor for wind power.

Even running a full tilt, 24 hours a day, 356 days a year brings a yearly total of only ~ 4x10^9 kWh produced per year. Given the typical line losses of the US power grid, thats roughly 3.7 x 10^9 kWh produced per year. Even running with your 7.8 x 10^3 kWh figure (its important to note that NE homes typically use significantly more energy than average, just that energy comes in multiple forms. Its a lot different looking at a NG heated home in NE versus an Airconditioned home in Texas. The Texas home may use more electricity, but the NE home more total energy.... the DOE estimates only 25% of energy use in Residental NE is due to electricity where-as in South West Cental region electricity is around 66% of residental engery usage), we still barely hit around 18.9% of households... The DOE also estimates that in New England, the residental section consumes just 37% of total electricity between commerical and industrial.

Roughly speaking, even if the windmills were built today and ran 24x7, they would provide only ~7% of Mass. Electrical Energy. Potential mass might believe that Electric demand will fall by ~60% by 2025?

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