MA Makes Wind Energy Plans, ND Wraps Up 149-MW Wind Project

by | Jan 5, 2010

windturbines2The state of Massachusetts is still struggling with its wind energy plans and approval siting process, while a $300-million wind project in North Dakota has been completed that is capable of generating 149 megawatts (MW) of power.

Massachusetts officials unveiled an updated plan for wind energy projects and other uses of state ocean waters, which includes additional regulatory standards for environmental protection, reports Cape Cod Times. While the Ocean Management Plan retains many components from an earlier draft, some changes were made to the five-year plan after concerns were raised over the potential impacts to areas such as Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, reports the newspaper.

The plan covers waters from about 1,500 feet offshore out to three miles, and allows for commercial wind energy projects of up to 150 wind turbines in two areas southwest of Martha’s Vineyards, reports Cape Code Times.

The Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary off the coast of the Cape Cod National Seashore is protected from most activities, according to the plan, reports Cape Cod Times. However, in the waters around the Cape 24 turbines are now allowed if adjacent communities and the Cape Cod Commission agree to the size and location of the turbines, and an additional 17 turbines are possible off the Vineyard and 11 turbines around Nantucket, according to the article.

The new plan does not impact the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm in federal waters. The U.S. Interior Department hopes to reach an agreement by March 1 over the long-delayed Cape Wind power project, which would boost the Obama Administration’s plan to increase renewable energy in the U.S., reports Reuters.

The proposed $1 billion wind farm, which would consist of 130 towers, has been delayed since 2001 over a number of issues including a lawsuit filed by native American Indian tribes who want to block the project, reports Reuters.

The new plan also includes a commitment from the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership for a $2.5 million research project for coastal waters, according to the Cape Cod Times.

An editorial in The Boston Globe suggests that the Massachusetts legislature should streamline the siting of wind farms to reduce the amount of appeals, as it has done for fossil-fuel plants that generate 100 megawatts (MW) of power or more.

According to the editorial, the approval process for wind development has significantly delayed projects even some that have received clearance from their host communities.

The proposed Wind Energy Siting Reform Act could change that by establishing statewide standards for appropriate locations for wind facilities, taking into account all existing regulatory concerns, according to The Boston Globe editorial. The law would also allow permitting boards to consolidate local permits and applications into a single process without weakening existing regulations, according to the article.

Meanwhile a $300-million wind project in North Dakota has been completed, reports ABC News. The wind farm, developed by Iberdrola Renewables, consists of 71 turbines and can generate up to 149 MW of electricity, according to the article.

So far, Missouri River Energy Services of Sioux Falls, S.D., which supplies power in four states, will buy 40 MW of power from the project, reports ABC News.

Despite the completion of the project, a recent study indicates the lack of extra-high-voltage transmission lines through the upper Midwest states, including North and South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, is a significant barrier to harnessing wind as a viable energy source.

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