It’s the best of times for the Easthampton solar farm and the worst of times for the beleaguered Cape Wind project. On the sunny side, installers are putting the finishing touches on a 2.2 megawatt solar panel project in Easthampton on a closed solid waste landfill. The 10,000 panel project will cost $9.2 million dollars and produce enough energy to power 600 homes.
In exchange for a $1-a-year lease, the developer will sell electricity to Easthampton for 6 cents per kilowatt hour over the next decade, a savings estimated at $1 million dollars a year for the city. The project was not without controversy. The present site is a smaller alternative site chosen after neighbors opposed the original site based on aesthetics.
Cape Wind proponents probably wish aesthetics were the only grounds of opposition to the proposed 130 turbines that will stand 440 feet tall in Nantucket Sound. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ruled (pdf) that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) misread its own regulations and did not justify its determination that the planned turbines would not pose a danger to pilots flying by visual flight rules.
The court ordered the “no hazard” determinations vacated, and remanded the matter back to the FAA. While the project developer feels it can readily obtain a favorable FAA determination, the fact that after 10 years of review and challenges – which culminated in last year’s purported final approval of the project by the Department of Interior –another significant roadblock can be thrown down, must have the project proponents, a supportive state government and many environmentalists wondering if the present Cape Wind project will ever become the nation’s first off-shore wind farm.