Cape Wind picks Falmouth as headquarters as critics challenge FAA approval in federal court

FALMOUTH—Cape Wind said it will purchase a Falmouth marina to serve as the base of operations for its wind farm, the most powerful signal yet the decade-long proposed wind farm is likely to be built.

East Marine on Falmouth Harbor will serve as the maintenance hub for the 130 turbines once they are built, according to Cape Wind which signed a purchase and sales agreement with the marina this week. The company plans on hiring 50 people, most from the local area. However, the final sale will only occur if the project receives financing to build the more than $2.5 billion project.

“This requires a vision and a willingness to take a risk to make this happen,’’ said Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind. “We want to show the financial commitment for the operations and maintenance side... we have a lot of confidence we will finance this project.”

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While Cape Wind has not yet announced financing for the project, it has made a series of investments lately, including geological testing in the 25-square-mile Nantucket Sound site in preparation for construction. Gordon, who would not reveal the price of the marina, said he expects to close on financing by the second quarter of next year, start construction in 2014 and begin operations in 2015. The company has guaranteed sales for power from 101 turbines, but Gordon said he intends to build all 130 proposed turbines.

The announcement came as the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the main opposition group to the proposed farm, filed suit in federal court challenging a recent FAA decision saying Cape Wind would not interfere with air traffic. The Alliance said the FAA is ignoring public safety.

“The FAA ruling shows a complete and utter disregard for public safety and flies in the face of last year’s decision by the US Court of Appeals in D.C. to revoke Cape Wind’s aviation safety permit,” said Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

“Cape Wind would place 130 massive turbines, each over 40 stories tall, in the heart of Nantucket Sound. It’s abundantly clear to virtually everyone outside of the FAA that it poses serious safety risks to the flying public,” Parker said.

Mark Rodgers a spokesman for Cape Wind called the lawsuit “not surprising” saying the FAA “was very clear in laying out what their guidelines are and how it led them to the determination.