FAA Clears Cape Wind For Takeoff

Last year, the courts told the Federal Aviation Administration to go back and take a better, longer look at the wind turbine array proposed for Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts. And once again, the FAA has determined that the Cape Wind project — which could well become the nation’s first offshore wind farm — is A-OK as far as it is concerned.

“The FAA completed an aeronautical study and has determined that the proposed construction of the 130 wind turbines, individually and as a group, has no effect on aeronautical operations,” the agency said in a statement on Wednesday. “Therefore, the FAA concludes that the project, if constructed as proposed, poses no hazard to air navigation.”

cape wind faa

The likely view from Craigville, Mass. (simulation via Energy Management)

Last October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned a similar finding by the FAA – but not because the court was certain the turbines posed a danger to air traffic. As Todd Griset of Offshore Wind Wire explained, the court threw out the ruling because it agreed with the Cape Cod town of Barnstable, Mass., and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound that the FAA hadn’t adequately considered the risks the turbines might present. As the court wrote, “the FAA cut the process short in reliance on a misreading of its handbook and thus, as far as we can tell, never calculated the risks in the first place.”

In a charge that has found favor with Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound has claimed the FAA bowed to political pressure from the Obama administration – eager to see offshore wind get going in the U.S. – to back Cape Wind.

Responding to Wednesday’s announcement, the group said theFederal Aviation Administration ruling shows a complete and total disregard for public safety,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Such are the intense emotions that have come to define Cape Wind, on both sides, in the 11 years since the project was proposed.

As Stefanie Penn Spear wrote recently for EcoWatch, “The two sides combined, as of August 2011, have spent more than $70 million in the struggle over this project. And, with numerous lawsuits pending, challenging rulings on fishing, navigation, endangered species and tribal rights, the costs of this monumental battle are sure to increase.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.