Cape Cod Wind Power Backers Confident of U.S. Approval
DARTMOUTH, Mass. Backers of a plan to build the first large U.S. offshore wind-power farm said Thursday they were confident the project would clear a regulatory review after being nearly derailed in Washington.
A public comment period ends Friday for the plan by Cape Wind Associates LLC, a privately funded Boston energy company, to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound within view of the wealthy Cape Cod resort region of Massachusetts.
It was revived after U.S. Senate and House leaders agreed last month to remove provisions in a bill that would have empowered Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to block the $900 million project.
"There were those who assumed that Cape Wind was dead," project spokesman Mark Rodgers said in a telephone interview. "We're certainly gratified with the swell of support from around the country that ultimately succeeded in changing the language."
Cape Wind Associates is working with investment bank Lehman Brothers to secure financing, Rodgers said, adding that he was confident the project would clear a government regulatory review which is expected to decide on the project in 2007.
The United States trails Europe in developing offshore wind-power energy production. Denmark accounts for more than half of the world production, followed by Britain. If built today, Cape Wind would be the world's largest offshore wind-power farm.
But approval is not certain, Energy Security Services Inc. analyst Paul Flemming said. "I'm really not a betting man. It's been such a roller coaster," he said.
It would consistently generate 170 megwatts of electricity, enough to power about 75 percent of Cape Cod and the nearby islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. At its peak, the wind farm could generate more than 400 megawatts.
Supporters say it would save millions of dollars in energy costs and help the United States reduce its reliance on foreign oil at a time of record-high crude prices.
Opponents, including Massachusetts politicians and business leaders with homes on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, say Cape Wind's 247-foot-tall turbines would kill migrating birds and could threaten the region's lucrative tourist industry.
Charles Vinick, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said he believed Cape Wind could ultimately be denied approval after the regulatory review. It could be ruled a navigational hazard by the Coast Guard, he said.