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Offshore Wind Farms: Measuring The Potential

offshore meteorological monitoring station
The offshore meteorological tower onHorseshoe Shoal gathers wind and weather data.
Cape Wind Associates

Cape Wind Associates has received approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install a scientific monitoring station on Horseshoe Shoal, the site of its planned wind park off Cape Cod. The structure will gather scientific data to be used in evaluating and designing the nation’s first offshore wind park as well as other scientific uses.

“This authorization to install a scientific monitoring station represents a significant milestone in developing and evaluating our landmark project,” said James Gordon, president of Cape Wind As sociates, developer of the wind park. “The wind park must undergo a separate environmental permitting process, and the monitoring station will provide information essential to that analysis.” Gordon said the structure will also provide valuable data for other scientific and public uses independent of the Cape Wind project.

The monitoring station is a single pole outfitted with technological devices to measure meteorological and oceanographic data including: wind speed and direction, ocean currents, wave height, water salinity, and other vital information. The scientific data is needed to assist with wind park design and engineering, as well as to support permitting reviews by numerous state and federal regulatory agencies. Gordon said data from the station will “help us make informed decisions on the project.”

The 197-foot structure, estimated to cost Cape Wind Associates $2 million to erect and operate, will be located approximately 11 miles off Cape Cod. Operations are expected to begin this fall and continue for up to five years. Gordon said the company will move quickly to erect the structure so his team can gather and analyze information needed to design the best project possible. He also noted that raw scientific data collected by the monitoring devices will be shared with various academic institutions including the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Cape Cod Community College, and the University of Massachusetts.

Before issuing the permit, the Corps of Engineers received a favorable assessment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Earlier, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management indicated it “supports the development of renewable, non-polluting energy sources” and that the scientific monitoring station is consistent with the agency’s coastal policies.

The proposed Cape Wind project includes 170 high-tech wind turbines spaced between one-half and one-third mile apart on Horseshoe Shoal, more than five miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod. Studies show that the area has some of the strongest, most consistent wind in the eastern U.S. At peak output, the project would generate more than 400 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the needs of Cape Cod and the Islands. Other project benefits include cleaner air and water, reduced global warming, and increased energy security and independence.

The proposed wind park is the subject of a separate environmental review and permitting process led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps is working closely with numerous federal and state government agencies, including the Massachusetts Office of Environmental Affairs, to conduct a comprehensive review of a wide range of issues — including environmental, aesthetic, conservation, and economic — to determine whether the project is in the public interest.

The Cape Wind project is being developed by Energy Management Inc. Over its 27-year history, EMI has built and managed clean, natural gas-fueled power generating facilities in New England.

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