Salazar signs lease for the first American offshore wind farm -- another win for Cape Wind

America’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, signed a lease with the federal government to officially rent its space in Nantucket Sound yesterday. The planned 130 wind turbines, which will produce enough power to meet 75% of the Cape Cod’s electric demand, now have their place in the sea to build – bringing them ever closer to spinning clean, renewable power for American homes.

As my colleagues Nathanael Greene, Brandi Colander, and I have recounted before, NRDC has actively participated in all phases of the environmental review and regulatory approval processes for Cape Wind that brought us to this day. After careful review of the two lengthy environmental review documents prepared by the federal government, and after an enlightening tour of offshore wind projects with NRDC President Frances Beinecke, NRDC announced its support for the project in 2008. We continue to use every opportunity to express that support.

The amazing and heartening thing is that Cape Wind keeps overcoming every obstacle and winning every battle. It is paving the way for more and more offshore wind farms along America’s coasts to take flight, so they too can power our country with clean, renewable energy that can’t run out or spill (as we just saw in the Gulf of Mexico).

In April, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the project and determined that the environmental review met required standards. When he signed the lease with Cape Wind, Secretary Salazar said:

“Cape Wind, in many ways, has been a pioneer for offshore wind development in the U.S. Our responsibility now is to take the lessons learned from that process – and from the growing pool of experiences with offshore wind development around the globe – and build a smart U.S. program.” 

That is truly our next challenge, and Cape Wind has shown us how to do it.

There will be other necessary steps along the way before the turbines are spinning – such as regulatory approval from Massachusetts for the long-term power purchase agreement that Cape Wind has negotiated with National Grid. But so far, Cape Wind has cleared every hurdle on its journey, most recently winning a decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Court rejecting claims that the state siting process was flawed. 

The Cape Wind project seems to have nine lives – one for each year that the extended federal/state regulatory approval process has dragged on. It is proof of our country’s dedication to reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and building a clean energy future. Yesterday's signing of the first federal offshore wind lease is another important win.

Stay tuned for more.