Offshore, Project Development, Wind Power

Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Cape Wind

The Cape Wind project won a landmark victory this week in its quest to develop a 130 turbine wind farm off the Massachusetts coast. On Monday, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld the May 2005 ruling by the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Council that approved construction — and operation — of an 18-mile undersea cable to connect the proposed Nantucket Sound wind project to the mainland electricity grid.

According to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, in the case of Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound vs. Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (MEFSB), the Court ruled the board “has acted permissibly” in determining that the transmission lines were needed to serve the proposed wind farm — even though the wind farm itself will ultimately require the approval of federal agencies. “The state’s highest court has now confirmed the validity of the original agency decision, which said emphatically that Cape Wind’s power is needed, that Cape Wind will reduce air pollution and that the project is a needed part of our state’s energy mix,” stated Cape Wind President Jim Gordon. The decision this week comes more than four years after the original petition to “operate and maintain two new 115 kilovolt electric transmission lines” was submitted to MEFSB by Cape Wind Associates and the Commonwealth Electric Company in September 2002. MEFSB conditionally granted the petition on May 11, 2005 after a 32-month review that included 2,900 pages of transcripts, 923 exhibits and 50,000 pages of documentary evidence. Later that same month however, the board’s decision was appealed by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the long-term preservation of Nantucket Sound. Former MEFSB chairman, Paul G. Afonso, oversaw the proceedings during the Cape Wind transmission line petition review. “One can’t lose sight that this is an important milestone in the project. There can be no doubt about that. Had the [Supreme Court] decision been reversed we would have been having a very different conversation. You need the interconnection of those lines,” said Afonso, who is an attorney with the Massachusetts firm Brown Rudnick. The Supreme Court decision to uphold the “lower agency’s ruling” this week, said Afonso, was a reflection of the thorough review of testimony and evidence heard by MEFSB from both organizations — Cape Wind proponents and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound issued a statement on its web site this week stating, “The Cape Wind project is far from a done deal, and this decision represents but one of over 20 local, state and federal approvals and permits that the developer must get before this project could advance. We remain confident that the Cape Wind project will not be permitted because of its unprecedented and inappropriate industrial use of 24 square miles of heavily trafficked and environmentally sensitive waters in Nantucket Sound.” The proposed Cape Wind offshore wind farm would consist of 130 GE 3.6 megawatt XL wind turbines that are approximately 440 feet in height. The wind turbines would be sited over twenty-four square miles of Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound and connected, by undersea cables, to a service platform which would house an electric transformer. The closest land locations in different directions from the wind farm include Point Gammon in Yarmouth, 4.7 miles to the north; Cape Poge on Martha’s Vineyard, 5.5 miles to the southwest; and points in Nantucket approximately eleven miles to the south and southeast.