Federal Permitting Issues Related to Offshore Wind Energy, Using the Cape Wind Project in Massachusetts as an Illustration


Cape Wind Associates, LLC in Massachusetts intends to build a 130-turbine wind park off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in federal waters. The wind park would generate an average output great enough to power about three-quarters of the Cape’s energy needs.

Construction of this project required two permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: one for a single data tower, and one for the overall wind park. To date, the Corps has granted the data tower permit. This has been the subject of litigation in Massachusetts state and federal courts. The Corps is also conducting a lengthy environmental review of the wind park, with a permit decision expected in late 2004.

The are two major legal issues: (1) does the Corps have authority to permit structures that are not used for gas, oil, and mineral extraction on the outer continental shelf; and (2) should the Corps include the data tower in its environmental impact review. These questions involve the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and applicable CEQ regulations.

The paper also examines recently proposed legislation in Congress, including the 2004 Energy Bill, all of which seek to establish a new permitting system for offshore wind energy.


Energy and Utilities Law | Environmental Law | Natural Resources Law | Oil, Gas, and Mineral Law

Date of this Version

May 2004