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August 16th, 2012

Cape Wind Approved By FAA (Again)

by Andrew Price, President & COO

Cape Wind received a key approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday. The project has received similar approvals three times already. Since development began more than 10 years ago, the FAA has provided “Determination of No Hazard” approvals to the offshore wind project four times.

On Wednesday the FAA found that the 130 offshore wind turbines would pose no hazard to local airplanes flying buy sight-only.  The FAA determined that structures must be taller than 500 ft to interfere with local air traffic and, because Cape Wind is using turbines that are only 440 ft tall, they would pose no hazard.

This new ruling was necessitated by a federal appeals court which, in October 2011, overturned the FAA’s prior approval after finding that the federal agency had not properly considered the impact on local aircraft.

Cape wind is a $2.6 billion project that, if completed on schedule, would start producing power in 2015. Offshore wind farms have proliferated in Europe but Cape Wind would be the first in the US. After almost 15 years of permitting, licensing, and legal battles, Cape Wind has had to fight every step of the way.

Cape Wind may not be done fighting yet. United States Representatives Darrell Issa, R-California and John Mica, R-Florida, have taken up the cause of project opponents and have asked the FAA to demonstrate that political pressure from the Obama administration did not play a part in the FAA’s approval. (The FAA first approved the project during the Bush administration.) Project critics have also complained loudly about visual pollution, safety hazards for air and sea travel, loss of recreational value in Nantucket Sound and on the Cape, and overpriced electricity contracts. I wrote about the electricity contracts that have been awarded to Cape Wind in a previous blog: Study Finds That Cape Wind Will Save $7.2 billion. To date, Cape Wind has buyers committed to take about 75 percent of the power it will generate.

Project supporters claim benefits that include less air pollution, job creation, energy security and an overall economic savings to the region.

Project supporters and opponents should both agree that 15 years is far too long a permitting process for any wind farm.

According to the company website: “Cape Wind [has] received all required Federal and State approvals, a Commercial Lease, and an approved Construction and Operations Plan. … Cape Wind has commenced its project financing stage.”

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