Offshore Wind - A Work In Progress

Last Updated:
Fri, 2014-08-01 09:49
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More than 10 years ago, the planning began for what was to be the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. The project, known as Cape Wind, is to consist of 130 wind turbines sited in a shallow water area of Nantucket Sound, off the coast of Massachusetts. The project is still in the works, so to speak, as it has remained entangled in red tape, controversy, lawsuits, and a political tug of war. A look at Cape Wind’s progress provides some insight into what is taking so long for offshore wind to become a reality in the U.S.

Studies, Permitting, and Regulatory Compliance

Research and testing to determine potential impacts as well as optimal design and construction of offshore wind are part of the initial planning process. Various studies of the proposed site and project must be completed to determine viability and to comply with requirements of permitting agencies. The data and findings from aeronautical, wildlife, meteorological, and geological testing, including extensive surveying of the ocean floor, are all critical components that factor into vigorous review by several government agencies.

In addition to environmental studies, government agencies must evaluate regional economic impact. Permits must also be obtained for use of air space and underground use of electric transmission lines.

Cape Wind recently completed the extensive permitting process with a Determination of No Hazard from the Federal Aviation Authority. The FAA’s ruling was released after the latest findings from an aeronautical study showed that the turbines were not a hazard to local air traffic and will not have an adverse affect on radar for air traffic control. The determination is good for 18 months. If it expires before construction begins, the project will be required to go before the agency again.

Financing

With permitting complete and several power purchase agreements in place, Cape Wind is ready to enter the financing phase to seek capital support for the project. During this phase, testing and surveying continues on the proposed site in preparation for the start of construction.

Opposition

Cape Wind has continuously been delayed by political disagreements and lawsuits filed in opposition to the project. Reasons for concern cited by the opposition include high costs, spoiled views, property rights, private gain in public waters, and impact to wildlife, tourism, and fishermen.

Support For Cape Wind

In response to opposition, Cape Wind supporters point out that offshore wind is a source of clean energy generation that does not consume water and does not produce wastewater or air pollution. Successful completion of the environmental review and permitting process indicate that government agencies agree that the project has potential for economic and environmental benefits. Environmental protections are being addressed throughout the process with research, preventative measures, and environmentally sensitive construction techniques.

The potential for job creation is promising, with the hope that most jobs can be filled from within local and surrounding areas. Even before the start of construction, engineers, geologists, marine biologists, meteorologists, avian specialists, and environmental scientists are among those who gained employment as a result of this project. Cape Wind recently announced that headquarters for the project are to be based locally on Cape Cod, creating 50 new permanent jobs. Jobs will also be created for eco tourism and maritime workers in construction and maintenance.

Conclusion

With a cautiously optimistic estimate for the start of construction some time in 2013, Cape Wind is closer than ever to becoming a reality. With so much at stake and so many opinions and motivations involved, the development of offshore wind is a process that will continue to prove difficult to expedite.

Are you interested in how wind power works and its potential as an alternative energy source? Everblue’s Basics of Wind training is the ideal introductory course with topics ranging from site selection to installation and maintenance of wind turbines.

By Amy Malloy

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