Cape Cod is one step closer to getting its first offshore wind farm, a project that’s been trying to get off the ground for more than a decade.
The Danish export credit agency EKF has approved a $600 million loan for the Cape Wind project, a large chunk of the financing needed to build the $2.5 billion wind farm. With the EKF loan, Cape Wind now has $900 million in financing, and has also already agreed to purchase turbines for the project from a Siemens subsidiary. With this new financing secured, Cape Wind estimates it can secure all necessary funds by this fall and begin producing energy by 2016.
If built, Cape Wind would include 130 wind turbines installed in Nantucket Sound, a farm that under average winds could provide Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket with 75 percent of the region’s power needs.
The project is in the race with several other proposed wind developments to become the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., but it’s encountered major opposition and setbacks since it was first proposed in 2001. Fossil fuel magnate Bill Koch has fought against the project since its inception, saying installing the turbines in Nantucket Sound would create “visual pollution” and increase the cost of electricity in the sound, where he owns a vast amount of waterfront property. Koch has donated at least $1.5 million to the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, an organization that formed in 2001 in opposition to Cape Wind. The project has faced significant legal opposition, including a suit launched by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound as recently as last month.
Still, Cape Wind is moving forward. In 2011, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers approved the project, followed by the Bureau of Ocean Management. And it’s not the only offshore wind project that’s gaining steam in the U.S. On the West Coast, a company that wants to build five floating wind turbines off the coast of Oregon was approved to send its plans to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management earlier this month. That project would be the first to be installed on the West Coast — most other offshore wind projects in the works are off the coast of eastern states. The Interior Department has announced plans to auction off 80,000 acres off of the coast of Maryland for commercial wind energy leasing — an area that, if fully developed, could house 850 to 1,450 megawatts of wind energy. And Rhode Island-based wind company Deepwater Wind is planning a five-turbine installation off the coast of Rhode Island, which could power 17,000 homes.
Though the U.S. so far has no installed offshore wind, Europe has long been a leader in generating energy from offshore wind. The EU countries combined have the highest overall installed wind power capacity in the world, with 2,080 offshore turbines installs, yielding 6,562 megawatts for 11 countries.