The FAA announced Wednesday that the 130-turbine Cape Wind project off the Massachusetts coast posed no danger to air travel. The FAA’s approval means that Cape Wind is fully permitted, with federal and state approval, a commercial lease and construction and operations plans, and power purchase agreements with utilities in Massachusetts – the only offshore wind farm so close to construction. Massachusetts, then, is about to add to its fast-growing use of renewables.
The approval does not come without controversy, however. Republican lawmakers want to investigate the possibility that the Obama administration put pressure on the agency to approve the project despite safety concerns. Even with that threat looming, the project is the subject of numerous legal challenges.
Last year, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound challenged the FAA’s previous approval of the project, and the DC Circuit overturned that approval, ordering the agency to review its findings. Cape Wind must also set aside $15 million to address any issues with the radar systems used to locate aircraft in the area, but because the turbines, at 440 feet, are below a 500-foot threshold, the FAA does not expect them to obstruct pilots. Boston.com has the story here.
For those of us who might have been following this story since the George W. Bush administration, this storyline might sound familiar. That’s because this is actually the FAA’s fourth no-hazard determination, an approval that must be reviewed if construction does not begin within 18 months. Maybe the fourth time is the charm on the high seas of Nantucket Sound.