The Massachusetts Audubon Society has given preliminary support to a proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound after studies allayed concerns that the farm's turbine blades would cause significant harm to birds.
Jack Clarke, advocacy director of Mass Audubon, said extensive studies conducted during the last four years showed that sensitive species, including endangered roseate terns and piping plovers, generally avoid the 24-square-mile footprint of the proposed project.
"Our preliminary conclusion is that the project would not pose a threat to avian species," Clarke told The Boston Globe.
Cape Wind Associates has proposed erecting 130 of the 417-foot-tall wind turbines. It says the $800 million project would meet the region's energy needs in an environmentally friendly way.
Opponents say the towers will create a visual blight, hurt wildlife, and hamper the fishing and aviation industries. Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy oppose the project, as does U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who is trying to add an amendment to a Coast Guard authorization bill that would effectively kill the Nantucket Sound proposal by prohibiting wind farms within 1.5 nautical miles of a shipping channel or ferry route.
The project's most significant hurdle is an ongoing federal environmental review, and Mass Audubon's preliminary stance is likely to be helpful.
Mass Audubon said it wants the government and Cape Wind to study the flight paths of birds for one more spring and summer season at night to be certain the blades would not kill too many birds. Mass Audubon gave no figure on how many bird deaths would be acceptable. They said if new information indicates the deaths would be "ecologically significant," they would reconsider their support.
Mass Audubon officials said support for the farm was a difficult decision because it would probably cause some bird deaths. They said that cost was outweighed by the need for renewable energy sources.