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History of the Cape Cod Offshore Wind Energy Project

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Today is a big day for the US renewable energy sector with the announcement that the first offshore wind power project in America has been approved for construction off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The Cap Cod offshore wind project has been quite controversial and many years in the making, so I thought I would break down the history of the project to provide a bit more context for today's announcement.

November, 2001 - Cape Wind Associates submits a proposal to develop a major offshore wind farm approximately 5 miles off the coast of Cap Cod. The proposal begins with an application to the US Army Corp for a navigability permit.

Shortly after the announcement, the "Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound" was formed to fight the proposed project. The Alliance was formed mainly by property owners worried that the 400 foot wind turbines would distract their coastal view. The groups argues that the wind power plant and farm could be located elsewhere or in deeper waters out of sight.

The most powerful critic of the project from the beginning is the late-Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

January, 2002 - US Army Corps of Engineers announces that it will require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to prepared in response to the Cape Wind Associates proposal. The Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency for the EIS process.

2003 - an organization called "Clean Power Now" is formed to support the Cape Wind project and oppose the activities of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. Their mission statement reads in part, "We believe that the timely development of such projects, in conjunction with energy efficiency and conservation, will bring about a clean, healthy environment, an improved economy and a more secure, sustainable America. Our immediate focus is to increase citizen support of offshore wind power in Nantucket Sound"

November 2004 - a Draft Environmental Impact Statement is released by the Army Corps of Engineers finding that the Cape Wind project will produce "compelling public interest benefits and positive environmental impacts." The report was made available for public comment and review for 60 days.

Fall 2005 - Under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the jurisdiction for the issuing of leases and right-of-ways for alternative energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf is passed to the Department of the Interior and specifically the Minerals Management Service. It was determined at the time that a new Draft Environmental Impact Statement would be needed.

December 2005 - Environmental attorney and activist, Robert F. Kennedy pens an editorial in the New York Times stating that while he supports wind energy projects in general, he does not support the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound.

March 2007 - Commonwealth of Massachusetts issues a Certificate on Cape Wind's Final Environment Impact report, completing the State's environmental review of the project.

August 2007 - An opinion poll finds that 93 percent of Massachusetts residents are in favor of their State emerging as, "a national leader in alternative energy, including wind power projects such as Cape Wind.

October 2007 - the Cape Cod Commission denies Cape Wind's application to bury electrical cables in seabed floor to connect the offshore wind farm to the grid. Cape Wind responds by asking that the ruling be overturned by the State government.

November, 2007 - Cape Wind files the initial petition to the Massachusetts Energy Siting Board to seek a Certificate of Environmental Impact and Public Interest.

January 2008 - the Mining Management Service's Draft Environmental Impact Statement is made available for 60 days to the public for review and comment. The draft statement concludes in part that, "the wind farm off Cape Cod would have little lasting impact on wildlife, navigation, and tourism."

In reaction to the findings of the MMS report Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) issus a statement: "I do not believe that this action by the Interior Department will be sustained. By taking this action, the Interior Department has virtually assured years of continued public conflict and contentious litigation.”

March 2008 - Environmental groups pressure newly appointed Chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, US Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) to issue a statement in support of the Cape Wind project. The groups also urge a similar commitment to the project be made by Senator John Kerry who is also from Massachusetts.

August 2008 - the documentary film "Cape Wind: the fight for the future of power" is released. In 2009, the films' producers sign a deal to air the film on the Sundance Channel.

Here's the trailer:

January 2009 - the Mineral's Management Service releases the final Cape Wind Environmental Impact Statement. The report is favorable and concludes that the Cape Wind project can proceed.

May 2009 - Cape Wind is granted a "Certificate of Environmental Impact and Public Interest" by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick says that, "The time has come to see the first offshore wind farm in America rise off the Massachusetts coast, a powerful symbol of our commitment to a clean energy future.”

November 2009 - US Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) announces his support for the Cape Wind project via a letter to Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar. Marekey writes that, "“approving the Cape Wind project as the nation’s first commercial offshore wind project before the start of the U.N. [climate change] conference would send a strong message to international negotiators about the United States’ commitment to developing sources of clean energy and reducing global warming pollution’’

December 2009 - electricity utility company, National grid, pens a power-purchase deal with Cape Wind. At the time of the announcement Tom King, president of National Grid’s US operation told the Boston Globe that the company wants to be a catalyst that helps to develop the US wind industry. The utility, he said, has not decided whether to purchase all or just some of the power Cape Wind generates.

April 2010 - Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) announces his support for the Cape Wind project. Kerry states that, "I favor a wind project somewhere in Massachusetts," but only on the condition that, "If the process decides that this is the one to be, I support moving forward."

April 20, 2010 - US representatives William Delahunt (D-MA) and newly elected Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) pen a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar opposing the Cape Wind project.

April 28, 2010 - Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar announces that the United States federal government has approved the construction of the Cape Wind project, the country's first offshore wind farm.

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