After nine years of political wrangling, the U.S. is finally getting its first offshore wind project. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar this week signed the 28-year lease for Cape Wind, a $1 billion, 130-turbine project in the Nantucket Sound that could provide up to 75% of all electricity for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket. But the signing of the lease isn't the last hurdle Cape Wind has to clear. It's not even close.
Opponents of the 25-square-mile project argue that Cape Wind could raise electricity prices for local residents (because of the cost of electrical grid and transmission line improvements), block airplane radar, and ruin the local landscape. The Cape Wind project still has to deal with a number of lawsuits from these opposing groups, and developers still haven't received approval for contracts to start construction by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the project is in the midst of a deal with the National Grid utility to buy half of Cape Wind's power.
Assuming all those hurdles are cleared, the project developers still needs to get the Cape Wind operating plan approved by federal regulators before they can break out the shovels. But if the rest of the red tape can be overcome, Cape Wind will be online by 2012—potentially generating an average output of 182 megawatts, or enough to power 70,000 homes. We'll still be lagging behind China, of course.