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Salazar Signs Lease for Country’s First Offshore Wind Project

In a coup for offshore wind advocates, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed today the first ever lease for an offshore wind project in the United States.

The Cape Wind project, off the coast of Massachusetts, has been mired in regulatory delays for years, and today’s lease signing sends a signal that offshore wind can be a viable energy source. The Northeast, which has little capacity for onshore wind, is putting all its money on Cape Wind to help meet future renewable energy mandates. If offshore wind doesn’t flourish in the region, state regulators could be forced to import wind energy from the Midwest on expensive high-powered electric lines.

But offshore wind certainly has its critics. They point to years-long delays (it took nine years to permit the project), soaring costs and the potential for offshore wind energy to raise electricity rates for some state residents.

The Interior Department lays out the specifics of the project:

The area offered in the lease is comprised of 25 square miles on the OCS in Nantucket Sound offshore Massachusetts. The 130 planned wind turbines could generate a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts with an average anticipated output of 182 megawatts. At average expected production, Cape Wind could produce enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts. The site of the project on Horseshoe Shoals lies outside shipping channels, ferry routes and flight paths but is adjacent to power-consuming coastal communities.

The Cape Wind energy project would be the first wind farm on the OCS, potentially generating enough power to meet 75 percent of the electricity demand for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island combined.

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