Since 2001 the Cape Wind Project was proposed by a private developer (Cape Wind Associates) with strong support from the Massachusetts government. The project is the first planned offshore wind farm in the US, encompassing 130 Siemens turbines (3.6 MW each) covering 24 square miles in the waters of Nantucket Sound.
According to the Website project: Cape Wind will be located in Federal waters off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, the most technically optimal offshore wind power site in the United States.
According to the Boston Globe, Cape Wind was delayed for years because the wealthy, most notably the Kennedys, exempted themselves from the movement toward clean energy. At the last minute, Native American tribes said turbines would disturb their cultural and historical heritage. In between, birders, boaters, beachcombers, and fishermen all concocted a spiral of reasons how turbines would destroy their way of life. Meanwhile, the Nantucket Sound is considered as an integral location to the identity and cultural traditions of the Wampanoag tribes, whose name translates to “people of the first light”. In 2010 they request the National Park Service to declare the Sound eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, arguing that the project would interfere with their spiritual ritual of greeting the sunrise which requires unobstructed views across the sound, and disturb ancestral burial grounds. According to the New York Times, Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, said the decision confirmed “what the Wampanoag people have known for thousands of years: that Nantucket Sound has significant archaeological, historic and cultural values and is sacred to our people.”
The decision by the National Park Service does not terminate the project, but it requires more negotiations and potential changes to the project and/or its location.
In addition to the tribes, the project’s opponents include homeowners and boaters on Cape Cod, who say it would hurt wildlife, fishing and tourism and spoil the beauty of Nantucket Sound. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, whose family compound in Hyannis Port looks out on the proposed wind farm site, was the project’s most powerful opponent until his death.
Another important player has been the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, an environmental and grassroots organization dedicated to the long-term preservation of Nantucket Sound. The Alliance include environmentalists, chambers of commerce, fishermen, Native American tribes, ferry operators, airport commissions, business trade groups, municipalities, homeowners, and others. In its webpage, the Alliance state that they “ support responsibly sited renewable energy development and the use of coastal marine planning to identify appropriate sites for development”. They also include what they call a series of alternative measures such as different locations for the project, energy conservation and efficiency measures, as well as different emerging technologies, including off-the grid supply for households and alternatives to supply cities.
A study published in 2015 stated that the Cape Wind Conflict “has been complicated by the incompatible interests and power dynamics of multiple parties, scientific uncertainty, and the requirements of national, state and local government jurisdictions”.