Cape Wind gets key green light on state permitting

The proposed offshore wind farm in Massachusetts wins a legal victory that clears one of the last permitting hurdles for Cape Wind. However, another looms next week.

Developers of the Cape Wind project won a legal decision that brings the controversial offshore wind farm in Massachusetts closer to the start of construction.

In a 4-2 decision issued on Tuesday, the state supreme court upheld an earlier ruling that Cape Wind could get a "composite" of permits from the state to cut through the local permitting process.

An offshore wind farm in Sweden.
An offshore wind farm in Sweden GE

Placement of the turbines would be in federal waters, but a transmission line connecting to the mainland on Cape Cod needs to be built. Local towns and the Cape Cod land planning agency denied the project a permit in 2007, saying it didn't have enough information, according to The Boston Globe. Cape Wind appealed to the state Energy Facilities Siting Board, which was created to evaluate energy projects held up by local permitting.

The board approved a single permit for construction of the transmission line but the decision was challenged by the Cape Wind opposition group Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and local permitting agencies, according to the Globe.

Tuesday's state supreme court decision upholds the siting board's decision and rules that the permitting regulation is valid. In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall said that proper authorization for the transmission lines across Massachusetts tidelands has not occurred. "The court's decision to the contrary sets a dangerous and unwise precedent, which has far-reaching consequences. A wind farm today may be a drilling rig or nuclear power plant tomorrow," she wrote.

Cape Wind, which has been under development for almost 10 years, has also cleared all federal environmental reviews . But even with Tuesday's state permitting decision, it faces challenges over the financial impact of the project, which would be the first offshore wind farm in the U.S.

Next week, Massachusetts public utility regulators are expected to start hearings next week on a proposed power purchase agreement between Cape Wind and utility National Grid. The agreement calls for delivering electricity to National Grid that costs at least 25 percent more than conventional sources.

 

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