Cape Wind, a developing, offshore wind farm in the Nantucket Sound, is a promising wind energy project. If completed, it will become the first offshore wind project to be installed in the United States. If completed, it’s 130 turbines will provide electricity for over 400,000 houses — nearly all of the electricity for the Cape Cod area. If completed, it will be a major victory for renewable energy advocates who have been fighting against project opposition for almost a decade. That victory appears more likely as the federal government is getting involved for a final push that could end the battle over Cape Wind once and for all.

The Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced last month that a “common sense” solution must be reached on the dispute over Cape Wind before March 1, 2010. Toward that end, Salazar invited the principal parties involved in the project to a meeting to find agreeable terms on which to finish the permitting process.

Salazar’s remarks took a determined stance on a successful mediation:

“After several years of review, it is now time to move the Cape Wind proposal to a final decision point. If an agreement among the parties can’t be reached, I will be prepared to take the steps necessary to bring the permit process to conclusion. The public, the parties, and the permit applicants deserve certainty and resolution.”

Secertary of the Interior, Ken Salazar (right), meets with Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Cedric Cromwell.

Salazar’s strong words confront what could be a final hurdle in approving Cape Wind for construction. Two Wampanoag tribes have claimed that the Nantucket Sound is the site of their religious ceremonies which require an unobstructed view of the sunrise. They also claim the site of the wind project would disturb ancient burial grounds that are now underwater. The National Park Service muddled the matter further by saying that Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Settling this matter could decide the fate of the project and Salazar is prepared to do so.

A recent meeting with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe at a sunrise ceremony shows Salazar personally listening to concerns and arguments on both sides of the issue. He holds onto his March 1st deadline for the Wampanoag tribes and the developer, Energy Management, to reach an agreement over Cape Wind. However, he commented that he is “not holding [his] breath on consensus” being reached and has suggested that he will have to single-handedly settle the matter himself.

The coming weeks will be critical for the future of Cape Wind. The escalating drama of the project has provided a unique opportunity for a high-ranking official of Salazar’s stature to comment on wind. Salazar said he holds a “bullish” stance on wind energy which remains a priority for the Obama administration.

Advertisements