Approval of Cape Cod's Offshore Wind Project Gives Turbine Industry a Big Boost

Last Updated Apr 28, 2010 8:47 PM EDT

Despite opposition from environmentalists and preservationists, naturists, Native Americans, and even a prominent member of the Kennedy family, the first major offshore wind farm in the United States has finally gotten a green light: Cape Wind just won its nine year fight to erect 130 wind turbines in the Nantucket Sound.

The fate of Cape Wind was uncertain until today, dependent on a decision from Interior secretary Ken Salazar. Even following the Department of the Interior announcement, some opponents of the project remain determined to fight, according to the Washington Post. But with a lengthy court battle the only remaining option, it's likely wind turbines will start going up even as dissenters continue to argue against them.

More important than just the Cape wind turbines, Salazar's decision is a significant win for the entire wind industry, which has increasingly been forced to fight NIMBYism in recent years. Opinions on how, vary. The Boston Globe asked other project developers how Cape Wind would affect business:

"Now we've got the signal that the US is willing to permit offshore wind facilities, and I think you are going to see some greater movement with other offshore wind projects in the near future," [Deepwater Wind's Jim] Lanard said. "It makes it more likely that we can keep our US dollars here in this country as manufacturers start to migrate here."

At American Superconductor Corp. in Devens, which both designs and builds electrical systems for wind turbines, spokesman Jason Fredette called the Cape Wind approval a "positive development," but said he sees the US wind industry building out only over time.

The most important aspect of Cape Wind may not be an immediate payout in projects, but a psychological boost for wind developers, convincing them that the government views their business positively.

Wind developers have their eyes on plenty of offshore territory on the East Coast, of course, and they will probably seek to secure more funding and contracts over the coming year. But there's also the potential to place hundreds of wind turbines on the Great Lakes. The problem is that some local residents, as at the Nantucket Sound, have fiercely opposed any turbines in their vicinity.

That opposition won't disappear. But with the Cape Wind feather in their caps, project developers in the region may now decide to fight it out with their detractors. If Cape Wind had been canceled, that would not have been the case. For the moment, the industry has the wind at its back.