Interior Department Finds No Major Impact from Cape Wind Project

January 16, 2008


Photo of a row of wind turbines rising from the ocean.

The United States does not yet have an offshore wind plant such as this one, which is located off the coast of Arklow, Ireland.
Credit: GE Energy, ©2004, General Electric Company

The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has issued a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Cape Wind Energy Project and finds no major environmental impacts from the proposed project. The MMS is the lead federal permitting agency for the Cape Wind project, a 468-megawatt wind power plant proposed for Horseshoe Shoal, a shallow part of Nantucket Sound located about five miles from the shore of Massachusetts. Cape Wind Associates, LLC first filed a permit application for the plant with the Army Corps of Engineers in November 2001, but the Energy Policy Act of 2005 shifted the permitting authority to the MMS. The company plans to begin construction on the project in 2009 and start operating the plant in 2010.

The MMS filed the report with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, January 11. The DEIS labels most impacts of the project as "negligible" or "minor," with only a handful of impacts rising to the level of "moderate," including visual impacts. The report lists the ways these impacts will be minimized, including the elimination of daytime lighting on the wind turbines and the use of only 57 warning lights at night. The DEIS also found the Horseshoe Shoal site preferable to alternative sites that were studied and found that building the facility would be preferable to the likely alternative, a fossil-fuel power plant. The MMS will begin accepting comments on the DEIS on Friday, January 18, at which time a Notice of Availability for the DEIS will be published in the Federal Register. Written comments will be accepted through March 20, and the MMS will hold public hearings on the document at four locations in Massachusetts from March 10-13. See the press releases from Cape Wind Associates and the MMS, or go directly to the full DEIS (PDF 5.48 MB). Download Adobe Reader.

The MMS also issued a record of decision on its Offshore Alternative Energy and Alternative Use Program on January 10. The decision formally establishes the program and, according to MMS, "reinforces the agency's intent" to finalize regulations for the offshore development of renewable energy, including both offshore wind power and ocean energy technologies. See the MMS press release and the record of decision (PDF 50 KB).