UPDATE From The Associated Press: A coalition of groups that oppose the construction of a wind farm in Nantucket Sound say they will sue "immediately" to stop the project.
The announcement Wednesday came after the Obama administration gave approval to a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the project, which would be the nation's first offshore wind farm, is a key to the country's push toward more renewable energy.
But opponents say it will endanger marine life and commerce.
Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound says she can't stand by while public lands and "marred forever."
Other groups who say they'll sue include the Animal Welfare Institute and the Industrial Wind Action Group. A Wampanoag tribe also is expected to sue.
BOSTON (AP) – The Obama administration has approved what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm, off Cape Cod, inching the U.S. closer to harvesting an untapped domestic energy source – the steady breezes blowing along its vast coasts.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his decision Wednesday in Boston, clearing the way for a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind was in its ninth year of federal review, and Salazar stepped in early this year to bring what he called much-needed resolution to the bitterly contested proposal.
"We are beginning a new direction in our nation's energy future," Salazar said.
SLIDESHOW: 7 Must-Know Facts About Cape Wind
Cape Wind will be the country's first offshore wind farm. The US Department Of Energy predicts that offshore wind farms alone will handle 4% of the country's electricity generating capacity by 2030.
The project will be ready to generate power in 2012, and Cape Wind plans on supplying 75% of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Island's power combined with the clean energy technology. At peak capacity, the project has the capability to meet 4% of the entire New England region's power needs.
When announcing the approval of the offshore wind farm, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said, “With this decision we are beginning a new direction in our Nation’s energy future, ushering in America’s first offshore wind energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region.”
The 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound (pictured above) will be no closer than 5 miles to land, and 14 miles away at its furthest. On a clear day, the turbines would only be a half-inch tall on the horizon when viewed from the nearest point of land. The number of turbines have been reduced from an original proposal of 170 to 130 to address concerns about harming views.
Cape Wind will create 600-1,000 construction jobs and 50 permanent wind power jobs.
The United Kingdom and Denmark are the leaders in offshore wind power, though many countries, like Germany, Norway, The Netherlands, and China, have invested in the renewable energy source as well. In 2007, Denmark (who built the first offshore wind farm decades ago) generated 19.7% of their electricity production from their combined wind power farms. That same year, 1.5% of electricity in the UK was generated by wind.
The green light for Cape Wind gives a lot of hope to the many other offshore wind farms being proposed in places like Texas, Delaware, and New Jersey. The Department Of The Interior writes, "the project would [.....] be one of the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiatives in the nation, cutting carbon dioxide emissions from conventional power plants by 700,000 tons annually. That is equivalent to removing 175,000 cars from the road for a year."
America's onshore wind industry is the world's largest, but higher upfront costs, tougher technological challenges and environmental concerns have held back the development of offshore wind farms.
Denmark installed the world's first offshore wind turbine 20 years ago. China has built its first commercial wind farm off Shanghai and plans several other projects.
The U.S. Department of Energy envisions offshore wind farms accounting for 4 percent of the country's electric generating capacity by 2030.
Major U.S. proposals include a project in Texas state waters, but most are concentrated along the East Coast north of Maryland, including projects in Delaware and New Jersey.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has been an enthusiastic backer of Cape Wind, pushing it as key to the state's efforts to increase its use of renewable energy. The lead federal agency reviewing the project, the Minerals Management Service, issued a report last year saying the project posed no major environmental problems.
Critics say the project endangers wildlife and air and sea traffic, while marring historic vistas. The late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy fought Cape Wind, calling it a special interest giveaway. The wind farm would be visible from the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport.
Democrat U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, who represents Cape Cod, said allowing the project to move forward will open "a new chapter of legal battles and potential setbacks" for the wind power industry.
"Cape Wind is the first offshore wind farm to be built in the wrong place, in the wrong way, stimulating the wrong economies," Delahunt said Wednesday.
Home to some of the best-known beaches in the Northeast, Cape Cod has long been a destination for summer vacations and is famous for its small towns and homes in its namesake architectural style.
The project is about five miles off Cape Cod at its closest proximity to land and 14 miles off Nantucket at the greatest distance. According to visual simulations done for Cape Wind, on a clear day the turbines would be about a half-inch tall on the horizon at the nearest point and appear as specks from Nantucket.
The developers are being required to configure the wind farm to reduce visual effects on the outer cape and Nantucket Island, Salazar said.
Opponents also said the power from the pricey Cape Wind project, estimated to cost at least $2 billion, would be too expensive.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the Republican who won Kennedy's seat this year, said the project will jeopardize tourism and affect aviation safety and the rights of the Native American tribes.
"Nantucket Sound is a national treasure that should be protected from industrialization," Brown said.
Associated Press writers Glen Johnson in Washington and Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.