Cape Wind challenges ruling on undersea cables
By Jason Szep
BOSTON (Reuters) - Planners of the first U.S. offshore wind-power farm on Wednesday challenged a decision by local authorities to deny their application to bury electric cables needed to connect to the Massachusetts power grid.
Cape Wind Associates LLC, a privately funded Boston-based energy company, said the surge in world oil prices close to $100 a barrel and calls among scientists for action on climate change add urgency for the estimated $1 billion project.
"There is growing urgency to deliver the economic and environmental benefits of Cape Wind and we hope our filing today will help make that happen," Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said in a statement.
Cape wind has proposed 130 wind turbines over 24 square miles in Nantucket Sound, within view of the wealthy Cape Cod resort region of Massachusetts, and says the project would meet the energy needs of 400,000 homes.
The Cape Cod Commission, created by the state in 1990 to manage growth and protect Cape Cod's natural resources, on October 19 denied its application to bury cables needed to connect the 420-megawatt wind farm to the state power grid.
Cape Wind filed a petition on Wednesday for that decision to be reviewed by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, which has ultimate jurisdiction and has already given a green light to the undersea cable, the company said.
Although the wind farm would rise from federal waters, the transmission lines connecting it to the grid would cross land controlled by state and local authorities.
The project's supporters, including Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, say the project would save millions of dollars in energy costs and help the United States reduce its reliance on foreign oil at a time of high crude prices.
Opponents -- including some Massachusetts politicians and business leaders with homes on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket -- say Cape Wind's 247-foot-tall (75-metre-tall) turbines would kill migrating birds and could threaten the region's lucrative tourist industry.
The turbines, five miles off the Cape Cod coast, would stand about 440 feet from the surface of the water to the tip of the blade to take advantage of the region's strong winds and shallow depth.
The project is opposed by Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy and many residents who own coastal property from where the turbines could seen on a clear day.
Kennedy, whose brother former President John F. Kennedy created the Cape Cod National Seashore in 1961, has said he believes Cape Wind would threaten a wildlife sanctuary and has criticized the lack of a competitive bidding process before the project was announced in 2001.
Its approval rests with the Minerals Management Service, a U.S. Department of the Interior bureau which manages the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf.
MMS has said it expects to issue a draft report on the project soon. If approved, it would take Cape Wind about 18 months to construct the wind farm.
(Editing by Christian Wiessner)