U.S. Approves Offshore Wind Turbines (Even if They Block Kennedy Views)

By Rachel Cernansky | April 22, 2009 4:33 pm

windturbine.jpgThe U.S. Interior Department announced new rules today that will allow the first offshore wind turbines to go up along the Atlantic Coast, including the site near Cape Cod that the Kennedy family famously opposed. In an Earth Day speech from Iowa, President Obama announced the new rules, which will set long-awaited guidelines for offshore leases, easements and royalty payments that the Bush administration worked on for years but did not complete [Los Angeles Times]. His administration will soon be able to begin leasing tracts off U.S. shores for electricity generation projects using wind and ocean currents [Bloomberg].

The Interior Department recently estimated that offshore wind turbines could someday supply more than enough electricity to meet the nation’s current demand [Los Angeles Times], an encouraging finding for Obama, who has been delaying the Bush-planned expansion of offshore oil drilling since entering office. The new plan is attractive because offshore winds are stronger and more reliable, and because the turbines would be closer geographically to large population centers—a key advantage since transporting wind-produced energy is still an obstacle to its large-scale development.

The administration is trying to help overcome some of the other obstacles facing the development of wind power as an alternative energy source, in part by devoting stimulus funds to improving offshore turbine blades: offshore wind turbines cost more than traditional wind turbines. Current technology also limits the turbines to shallower waters such as those found off the East Coast, which has less powerful winds [Los Angeles Times] than those found off the shore of California.

The ruling opens the way for a wind farm in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, which some locals opposed, saying that the turbines would be a blight on the scenic landscape. Many environmentalists argued that the opposition was based on selfishness, as the turbines would sometimes be visible from some of the most expensive summer homes and private beaches in the US, most notably the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport [The Independent]. But that project, from Cape Wind Associates, now has the support of the Massachusetts state government, and may be under construction by 2010. A project off the coast of Rhode Island is also ready to get underway, and Obama said interest is high in putting wind-power turbines off the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware [Bloomberg].

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Image: flickr / phault

  • http://clubneko.net Nick

    We should go talk to the northern Europeans. They have some of, if not the, biggest off-shore wind turbines and farms in the world; they build and install them with millimeter precision.

  • Matt

    Cape Wind has been grandfathered into a separate approvals process. Doesn’t seem like the author of this article is aware of this…

  • cathy

    I currently live west of Cleveland, and I’ve never lived anywhere so windy! This would be an awesome place for off-shore wind turbines. It is windy year-round here.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland

    Matt — Really? The reporting I saw implied that the Interior Dept still has to sign off. From Reuters:

    “Interior reached an agreement with FERC last month giving the department exclusive jurisdiction over offshore wind and solar energy. As these details were being worked out dozens of wind companies had offshore projects waiting to get the green light to move ahead…. Interior is currently considering whether to give final approval to offshore wind energy project Cape Wind off the coast of Massachusetts.”

    But Reuters could be wrong, too. Let me know if you have a better source.

    Cathy — I think there is a lot of interest in getting turbines set up in the Great Lakes.

  • Tom

    That is truly awesome. As far as all those opposed to blocking up the ‘scenic landscape’, wind turbines are a lot less unsightly than smokestacks and oil rigs.

  • Andrew Kniskern

    I think it is needed and about time for this.We need this wind farm.It will produce jobs and clean power.It will help get us away from relying on coal and oil as this catches on.More Power To Em!The only thing it may hurt is a few lost Figawi racers,they just might hit them.

    Wind Power.
    Native Islander

  • http://roadimage.blogspot.com/ Alan

    All good until the stupid sea gulls start flying into the blades. You just KNOW some bunch will file suit on behalf of “sea gulls rights.”

    Stranger things have happened.

  • Corey

    I live in Canada and I am very dissapointed with what are government has done to bring in new clean energy. The Harper administration has done nothing for this country the whole time it has been in office. Kudos to Obama for getting America on track to a greener cleaner future.

  • Patrick

    Here’s a crazy thought

    100 years from now Wind Turbine are everywhere. At a time when Earth’s weather patterns are the strangest in history, climatologists are blaming the wind turbines for “slowing down” the cooling winds of the Earth causing the bizarre new weather patterns.

    But that’s only fiction Ü

  • http://www.michaelthemagician.com Michael

    The “killing birds” is a poor argument against wind farms. As the wind turbine in Toronto, Canada says on its base: “approximately 6 birds are killed a year by the turbine, compare that to the average housecat”.

    Personally I find them esthetically a great kinetic sculpture. I was blown away by how much the wind farm at Palm Springs had grown since I was last there, and had no problem with how it looked. Offshore farms are just as neat to look at, even if they are made close enough to see from shore.

  • Kelly


    I’m a fellow Canuck… I agree about Harper, however a whole bunch of wind turbines just went up on Wolfe Island (just south of Kingston)…there is CRAZY wind all year round there, so that is promising. I do hope that more is done in the very near future. I’m disappointed enough in the whole Zenn car fiasco in Ontario…

  • Barbara Durkin

    Cape Wind selected a site under current and conflicting use. It would shut fishermen out of fishing grounds and create a public safety hazard according to all three airports with over 400,000 annual flights in the airspace. The FAA has issued a “Determination of Presumed Hazard” on Cape Wind. The ferry operators are opposed as it is too close to navigational lanes for the safety assurance of their 3 million annual passengers. The U.S. Coast Guard Cape Wind Radar Workshop Captain Raymond Perry admits that collision avoidance due to navigational radar interference caused by wind turbines would make collision avoidance within the array “problematic”.
    The MMS FEIS as THE federal document admits 1.43 collisions per year. The U.S. EPA identifies in their MMS FEIS comments that Cape Wind is “not economically viable”. Cape Wind has put 17 agencies now reviewing Cape Wind through the paces investigating the effects of the wind turbines they spec’d that are discontinued as GE 3.6 MW. With no source for offshore wind turbines, Cape Wind needs to identify customers prepared to pay twice the price (per MMS DEIS as the federal regulator) for their energy by green contract in order to earn a Power Purchase Agreement that they need to obtain project financing. Contrary to DOI/USFWS wind turbine siting guidelines Cape Wind is proposed for an area where one species is at the “brink of extinction”, and this is Sacred Land identified by federally recognized Tribes of which 26 are staunchly opposed. MMS review of Cape Wind is under investigation by the Office of the U.S. Inspector General.
    The new OCS rules apply to Cape Wind that has been under ad hoc review for 7 years as a present day phantom project. The points I make should have one considering that Senator Kennedy has better than casual knowledge of this expensive proposed Boondoogle. There is no free lunch, kids. Who is prepared to sign a green premium contract to pay twice the current price for their energy?

    World’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines, Vestas, President and CEO Ditlev Engle stated of the Cape Wind project proposal to the Boston Globe:

    “And, therefore, I am really wondering why anybody wants to put them up offshore because it’s twice the price. So just as an outsider, I am just scratching my head saying, “Why?”


    Senior VP of Vestas Peter Kruse:

    “The only way forward is more turbines in virgin ground onshore,” and, “Politicians want offshore so they can avoid the Nimby discussion, but they are allowing a tiny minority to force the rest of the population to pay double for renewable energy.”


    Bird kills by wind turbines actually are a very good argument against them:

  • ofrae

    it’s your choice. pay double for wind energy or pay tripple for fossil fuel. period

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  • windancer379

    Really people? Have you ever lived near one of the horrible turbines? And they don’t produce that many jobs. Once they are installed, then maintenance is all that is needed. My uncle lives in ND and there were 3 installed just 1/4 of a mile away from his home. He now cannot sleep in his bedroom and the shadow affects are very disturbing, he says it is like listening to an 18 wheeler engine running all day and night long, they are not quiet. I think they are unsightly and they don’t produce as much energy as they say, that is a fact. My mother has done extensive research on this and the cost totally out weighs the benefits. Do your research before you go hailing them as the next greatest thing on earth, they aren’t. I hate them! Just watch, in 10 years they will come down.


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