Positive report stirs up opponents -- Cape Cod offshore

A favourable draft environmental assessment by the US Army Corps of Engineers of the 454 MW Cape Wind project off Nantucket's shores in Massachusetts has rekindled the controversy over the project's impacts.

Days after the corps released its 3800 page draft report, setting in motion 60 days of public comment, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney stepped up his opposition to the $770 million project by demanding a moratorium on all US offshore wind development pending the completion of a comprehensive ocean zoning plan on where to build the projects. In response to offshore projects proposed by Winergy LLC, two New Jersey Congressmen said in October that they would introduce legislation to impose such a moratorium. (Windpower Monthly, November 2004). At the same time, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a local opposition group to the project, has asked the corps to extend the public comment period four more months, effectively delaying the project start next year. It was already extended from its normal 45 days to 60 days.

"There's no amount of study that will convince me a wind farm should be tested on Nantucket Sound before anywhere else on the East Coast," Romney told the Cape Cod Times, Nantucket's local newspaper, which has long opposed the project.

victory step

Proponents of the project are elated with the corps' findings, calling it a "big step toward energy independence, lower energy costs, new jobs and a healthier environment." Cape Wind's Jim Gordon says: "The release of this report represents a notable victory for an informed public dialogue during the permitting process given the sustained campaign by project opponents to keep this report from ever seeing the light of day." He adds: "This is great news for citizens hoping to turn decades of rhetoric into action on renewable energy."

Two recently released studies by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board and the Department of Energy also reported positive environmental and economic benefits from the Cape Wind project. Among the corps' findings are that the project will reduce spot market prices for electricity in New England; create new jobs during construction and operations of the project and provide additional income for the local economy; not adversely impact property values or tourism, as opponents have at times vehemently claimed; and not substantially impact commercial sea navigation. The project will, however, be visible from the shore and could impact local views, the corps study concludes.