First offshore US wind farm in Massachusetts

The approval by the Obama administration of the US’s first offshore wind farm "marks the birth of a new phase in offshore wind power. The decision is the first step in the transformation from a European market into a new global market led by European companies,” said Christian Kjaer, chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) today issued the following statement from AWEA CEO Denise Bode: “AWEA applauds Secretary Salazar for approving the Cape Wind project. Such forward-thinking decisions are necessary for the U.S. to realize the many environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind power."

Barack Obama’s administration approved the first offshore US wind power plant, backing a project near the Massachusetts coastline that was opposed by some locals, including the state’s late senator Ted Kennedy.

The Cape Wind energy project is to be built in federal waters near the state’s upscale peninsula of Cape Cod. The Siemens wind turbines would be visible from many of the exclusive villas on the popular vacation spot, including the Kennedy family compound.

Some locals have spent nearly 10 years trying to thwart the 1-billion- dollar wind farm, which could produce up to 468 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 200,000 homes in the state, according to the US Interior Department, which approved the project.

"After almost a decade of exhaustive study and analyses, I believe that this undertaking can be developed responsibly and with consideration to the historic and cultural resources in the project area," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Other parts of the north-east have also sought permission to build offshore wind farms, and the administration hopes the region could eventually generate as much as 1 million megawatts of electricity. The project constituted one of the largest greenhouse-gas reducing efforts in the United States, the Interior Department said.

The project by Cape Wind Associates LLC was scaled back slightly to accommodate local misgivings – the number of wind turbines allowed was reduced from 170 to 130. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in a statement said he could "accept and support" Salazar’s decision, which would bring much-needed jobs to his state.

But the project still faces several legal challenges from local groups. The Federal Aviation Administration also must approve the wind farms to ensure they won’t interfere with commercial airliners.

The administration’s decision marked a rare source of agreement between environmentalists and the business community, who have been tangling for months over broader clean energy reforms that have stalled in the US Congress.

The Sierra Club, a Washington-based environmental lobby, called the decision "a huge victory for clean energy." The Obama administration has set a goal of generating 20 per cent of US energy needs from wind power by 2030.

Bill Kovacs of the Chamber of Commerce, the largest US business association, said the wind farm "reflects the true spirit of American enterprise and a significant step forward toward achieving a more secure, diverse, and prosperous energy future."

“America needs offshore wind power, and with this project, Massachusetts will lead the nation,” the newspaper quoted Governor Deval Patrick saying, adding construction could begin within a year.

As Europe has already successfully experienced, it was inevitable that other parts of the world would soon catch on to the huge potential that offshore wind energy can provide.

China Daily reported Shi Lishan, deputy director of the new energy department under the National Energy Administration, said the four wind power projects include two near-shore 300-MW plants and two 200-MW facilities built on tidal flats.

In India, offshore wind is also front and centre in the Economic Times, with a report that the nation’s long coastline, low installation costs and readily available raw materials are attracting the interest of major international energy companies looking for expansion opportunities.

Currently, almost 100% of global offshore turbines are installed in European waters by European developers using European turbines: 830 turbines in nine countries, totalling over 2,000 MW of installed offshore capacity at the end of 2009. The UK is the market leader, and recently reached a record 1,000 MW (1 GW) in offshore wind installations.

In Europe, EWEA estimates that offshore wind projects in the pipeline – more than 100,000 MW – will provide 10% of total EU electricity demand.

In Canada, earlier this month, a power purchasing contract was awarded by the Ontario Power Authority to develop North America’s first offshore wind site.