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U.S. approves first offshore wind farm

The Obama Administration has approved the nation’s first offshore wind farm after more than eight years of legal challenges, reports the Associated Press.

Speaking Wednesday in Boston, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the $2 billion Cape Wind project marks “a new direction in our nation’s energy future.”

The 130-turbine, 420-megawatt wind farm will generate enough electricity to power 400,000 houses. The facility will cover 24 square miles (62 square km) roughly 5 miles (8 km) off the Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts. The turbines, which will be more than 400-feet tall, will be visible from the coast.

Siemens will be providing the turbines for the Cape Wind project. Image copyright Siemens AG.

Until Salazar’s announcement, the project had been held up by strong opposition from local residents, who said the turbines would be an eyesore; environmentalists, who worried about the impact on birds and whales; and two Indian tribes, who were concerned that the project would “interfere with sacred rituals and desecrate long-submerged tribal burial sites,” according to the AP.

Supporters of the Cape Wind project say it will generate a clean and renewable source of energy while creating green jobs. Wind energy advocates hope the project will pave the way to future offshore wind development. Already developers are eyeing sites off New Jersey, Delaware, and Texas.

Salazar echoed the sentiment during his speech in Boston.

“I am approving the Cape Wind project. This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast.”

In 2008, wind power accounted for about 39 percent of non-hydroelectric renewable energy production and 13.6 percent of total renewable energy production in the United States according to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA). While this represents about 1.2 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, the National Research Council, a nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter, expects the contribution of wind energy is rise significantly by 2020.

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