About twenty years ago the first offshore wind turbine was installed in the waters of Denmark. Since then, the European Union, China and various other countries across the globe have begun their own offshore wind industry. However, the United States has yet to establish an offshore wind industry, despite projections that the country will have significant offshore power by the end of the decade and into the 2020s.
Most likely to become the first offshore wind farm in the country is Cape Wind in Massachusetts. Originally proposed in 2001, the project has been met with much opposition. After years of debate, the project was finally given official lease by the U.S. last year. It was projected that the wind farm would be potentially operational by 2012. However, Cape Wind is encountering legal battles again, delaying the project once more.
The project has faced opposition from those concerned regarding endangered species, harmed historic vistas, and altered rituals in the case of Native American groups. There are also concerns that the turbines would interfere with migrating birds and right whales. The project is also facing criticism regarding interference with air traffic, which is the subject of the newest legal battle.
Cape Wind plans to include 130 wind turbines which reach to 440 feet in height each. The newest issue for the project is the potential hazard for aircraft. According to the recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, the Federal Aviation Administration incorrectly approved the project last year. The FAA, according to the court, did not follow its own regulations when giving the project a green light. The original ruling by the FAA stated that the turbines would not be a hazard to air traffic in the region.
The court ruled that the original FAA decision was not properly supported and the FAA needs to support their findings. The court noted that there were 425 fights in the Nantucket Sound, the location of Cape Wind, which were flying at or below 1,000 feet in an analyzed ninety-day period. Flights this low would be impacted visually by the turbines, according to the ruling.
Those involved with the Cape Wind project do not believe the court ruling will harm the project overall, however, opponents believe it may be the final nail in the coffin of Cape Wind. Only time will tell which group will be correct in the end.