The developer of the USA’s first offshore wind farm is aiming to start construction before the end of 2010 after receiving approval for the project from the federal government.

Cape Wind proposed the construction of the 420 MW wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts in 2001 and has been battling through the prmitting process ever since. After its nine year long battle it has naturally welcomed this decision by the US Department of the Interior. The company says that the approval of the project “has launched the American offshore wind industry” and would allow the USA to “harness an abundant and inexhaustible clean energy source for greater energy independence, a healthier environment and green jobs”.

“Going first is never easy and Cape Wind is proud of the role we played in raising awareness for what will become a major component of our energy future and in helping the United States develop a regulatory framework for this new exciting industry,” said Cape Wind President Jim Gordon.

He added: “What enabled Cape Wind to reach this crucial milestone is the steadfast support of leading environmental, labor, health and trade organizations and the support of the overwhelming majority of Massachusetts citizens who have repeatedly made their voices heard. We also appreciate Governor Deval Patrick’s support, vision and leadership to make Massachusetts a global leader in offshore renewables and the clean energy economy.”

Approval of the project is likely to trigger the approval of at least six more projects along the east coast of the USA and in the Great Lakes region, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). The decision “marks the birth of a new phase in offshore wind power” and is the first step in “the transformation from a European market into a new global market led by European companies,” said Christian Kjaer, EWEA Chief Executive.

The 130-turbine project has met with strong opposition from environmentalists and local residents who are concerned about the environmental and visual impact of the project. Groups such as the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound have promised to take further legal action to stop the project.