Cape Wind adds another legal win

Cape Wind opponents suffered several legal setbacks on Friday when a US court upheld decisions by federal agencies approving construction of various aspects of the controversial offshore wind project.

In a consolidated case comprising four lawsuits, Judge Reggie B. Walton in the US District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the Interior Department’s review and approval of 468MW Cape Wind – a permitting process that took 10 years.

In his ruling, Walton also rejected a long list of legal claims project opponents had raised including arguments over navigational safety, alternative locations, alternative technologies, historic preservation, Native American artifacts, sea turtles, and the adequacy of the project's environmental impact statement and biological opinions.

In two narrow instances, he has asked federal agencies to clarify their findings on whales and birds. The order indicates that the case is administratively closed until the District Court is provided with the clarifications.

Cape Wind expects these two compliance actions to be minor agency administrative actions that will not impact its schedule to finance the project, scheduled to conclude in the third quarter.

"These are incredibly important legal victories for Cape Wind. It clears the way for completing the financing of a project that will diversify New England's electricity portfolio by harnessing our abundant and inexhaustible supply of offshore wind," Cape Wind President Jim Gordon says in a statement.

"It will help pave the way for other coastal regions to utilize this clean energy resource for energy independence, a healthier environment, and new jobs," Gordon adds.

The four legal challenges were originally filed in 2010 by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound (the project’s main opposition group), the Town of Barnstable, the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe and the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Today's ruling is the latest in a series favoring the project in the past year.

Earlier in the week, Cape Wind awarded a supply contract for intra-array and export power cables for its 130-turbine project to Prysmian Cables and Systems USA, and another contract to Caldwell Marine International for their installation.

Cape Wind in recent months has signed contracts with suppliers including Siemens for the turbines and Cianbro for the electric service platform and substructure.

The state of Massachusetts has estimated a $2.6bn price tag for the project to be located in Nantucket Sound south of Cape Cod.

Cape Wind says it has qualified for the federal renewable electricity investment tax credit which reduces federal income taxes for qualified project owners based on capital investment measured in dollars.

Cape Wind, owned by Energy Management Inc. (EMI) in Boston, also has applied for a $500m US Energy Department loan guarantee.

Two utilities have committed to purchase a combined 77.5% of project nameplate capacity, which 101 turbines would generate. EMI is looking for buyers for the balance.