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The War to Build America’s First Offshore Wind Farm

Jim Gordon has been pioneering the installation of the United States’ first offshore wind farm to be located off the coast of Cape Cod for over a decade now, and while the proposal is closer now to being started than ever before, Gordon is well aware that the fight is not over yet.

Cape Wind has been getting permits and the go-ahead from governments over the past two months, and the first of 130 wind turbines is soon to be installed, six miles off the coast in Nantucket Sound. But just as this milestone is within reach, the U.S. Congress has decided not to renew tax incentives for the wind power industry.

Opposed over the project’s lengthy history by such luminaries from across party lines as Senator Edward M. Kennedy and petroleum and coal magnate and GOP fundraiser William Koch, Gordon has had a long fight, and he’s expecting it to continue, thanks in large part to Koch’s efforts. So far, he has faced reviews by 17 government agencies, court challenges, and some very public outcry.

Gordon was recently interviewed by Yale Environment 360, where he spoke about his decade-long fight to build the U.S.’s first offshore wind farm, why he thinks renewable energy developers will survive a boom in cheap natural gas, and why Cape Wind’s long struggle will ultimately benefit the clean energy sector.

“It was painful, it was costly, it was frustrating,” Gordon said. “But you know something, if it makes it easier for others after me, I take some pride in that. And I take some hope in that because America needs renewable energy.”

When asked whether the 10-year fight was over, Gordon replied:

I wouldn’t call it a fight, I would call it an epic battle. With every major energy or infrastructure project in New England you’re always going to have some opposition to it. People are resistant to change.

We were announcing a project that would produce over 75 percent of the Cape and islands’ electricity with zero pollutant emissions, zero water consumption and zero waste discharge — and most importantly harnessing an inexhaustible and abundant energy resource that’s ours, that’s not controlled by cartels overseas. We thought people would really be excited about it.

But we were surrounded by the wealthiest, most politically influential people in the United States, and a lot of them still are fighting this project.

For the rest of the interview, where Gordon discusses the ins and outs of Cape Wind, his own motivations, and why he thinks the battle will benefit the wind and renewable industries overall, click on over to Yale’s Enviornment 360.

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