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Cape Wind project approved

The Interior Department has approved the Cape Wind project, clearing the way for the first offshore wind power in the US.

By Staff writer / April 28, 2010

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, right, announces that the Obama administration has approved what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm, off Cape Cod, as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, left, looks on during a news conference at the Statehouse, in Boston, Wednesday.

Steven Senne/AP

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The long-embattled Cape Wind project won federal approval today, marking a major step toward becoming the first US offshore wind-power project and paving the way for a new source of renewable energy for America.

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For nearly a decade, regulatory battles have pitted residents of Massachusetts' cape and islands, Indian tribes, and influential politicians against one another and developers of the project. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar gave the green light for the project Wednesday at the Massachusetts Statehouse with Gov. Deval Patrick at his side.

“After careful consideration of all the concerns expressed during the lengthy review and consultation process and thorough analyses of the many factors involved, I find that the public benefits weigh in favor of approving the Cape Wind project at the Horseshoe Shoal location,” Mr. Salazar said. “With this decision, we are beginning a new direction in our nation’s energy future, ushering in America’s first offshore wind-energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region.”

IN PICTURES: The answer is blowing in the wind

A smaller project with some restrictions on it

But Salazar also noted that the project would be scaled back from its original 170 turbines to 130 and undergo special requirements – including requiring additional archeological research offshore to ensure that native sacred areas are protected.

The project, which will put the 440-foot-high turbines across a 24-square-mile swath of Nantucket Sound, is expected to provide Massachusetts residents with an average output of about 180 megawatts of power, enough renewable energy to power about 75 percent of the homes on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

The elimination of some turbines would reduce the visual impacts from the Kennedy Compound National Historic Landmark, and the array of turbines would be moved farther from Nantucket Island to curb visibility from the Nantucket Historic District.

Regarding possible seabed cultural and historic resources, the developer would be required to halt operations and notify the government of any surprise archaeological find.

“Impacts to the historic properties can and will be minimized and mitigated, and we will ensure that cultural resources will not be harmed or destroyed during the construction, maintenance, and decommissioning of the project," Salazar said.

A big factor in his decision, Salazar told reporters, was a recent letter by governors of Northeast coastal states, which protested a federal historic panel's verdict that recommended that the project not be approved. If that advice were followed, the governors noted, most wind project proposals up and down the East Coast probably could not go forward.

This would be America's first offshore wind power

After lagging European nations that have already rolled out huge offshore wind farms, Salazar's OK was a critical step smoothing the way for offshore wind industry to begin development in the US, according to Governor Patrick, who thanked Salazar for his decision.

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