Environmental Consulting & Engineering Services - from Concept to Reality

Case Studies

Cape Wind Renewable Energy Project


In 2001, ESS was retained as the lead environmental consultant for the Cape Wind Renewable Energy Project, an offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts capable of producing up to 468 MW of clean, renewable energy. The project is the first US offshore wind facility to receive a commercial lease from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and approval of a Construction and Operations Plan (COP). Cape Wind has completed all required federal, state, and local permitting and has begun pre-construction Geological and Geophysical (G&G) survey activities to support final project design.



To assist the Project Team in evaluating locations for the offshore wind farm and its electrical interconnections to the mainland, ESS conducted desktop studies using existing data in combination with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. ESS prepared concept plans for various project alternatives detailing meteorological conditions, bathymetric data, wave and current regimes, navigational features, natural resources, land use and zoning, and regulatory jurisdictions.

Once a site was selected, ESS and the Project Team created a development schedule and strategy for regulatory approval of the project. Regulatory agencies ranging from the US Department of the Interior to local wetlands commissions had some jurisdiction over the wind farm or its upland connections and were involved in its review and approval. ESS conducted agency outreach meetings to confirm permit application requirements and seek opportunities for coordination and integration of the various agency reviews.

Technical Studies

ESS conducted extensive technical studies for the project to assess potential environmental impacts. These studies included surveys of seabed geology, fish habitat, and marine invertebrates, as well as air quality modeling, and navigational risk assessment. To address endangered species, ESS developed an Avian and Bat Monitoring Plan and an Incidental Harassment Authorization for marine mammals. ESS also supported the client in National Historic Preservation Act consultations for the project.

Engineering & Design

Civil engineers at ESS worked with the project’s mechanical and power engineers to site the project components and develop conceptual routing for submarine and upland electric transmission cables and interconnections. ESS also prepared plans and drawings to support permit applications.

Permitting & Compliance

ESS prepared environmental impact assessments and filed numerous permit applications to local, state, regional, and federal agencies. These ranged from comprehensive Environmental Impact Reports and resource management plans to Coastal Zone Management Consistency Statements and a Navigational Risk Assessment to the US Coast Guard. ESS also filed and obtained Determinations of No Hazard with the Federal Aviation Administration for the wind turbines. ESS prepared a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the project, which was the first of its kind approved under current BOEM regulations.

As one of the first projects of its kind proposed in the United States, Cape Wind has attracted both public support and opposition. Over the past decade, ESS has assisted with informational public meetings for stakeholder groups and attended regulatory hearings on behalf of the project.

Inspection & Monitoring

ESS has worked with the Project Team to develop various construction techniques and management plans that address permit conditions for controlling potential project impacts. ESS conducted multi-year environmental monitoring and compliance inspections during project pre-construction, including avian and bat monitoring. ESS also provided on-board environmental monitoring and permit compliance oversight for vessels involved in pre-construction G&G survey activities, including protected species observations for monitoring of marine mammals and sea turtles.

Outcome & Benefits

Since 2001, ESS has provided regulatory permitting expertise and leadership, and conducted the environmental impact assessments necessary to complete the Project’s extensive state and federal permitting reviews as well as Environmental Impact Statement reports, which culminated in the Project’s approval in 2010. ESS also directly interacted with BOEM staff on Cape Wind-related issues, such as the completion of the first BOEM-approved COP for an Outer Continental Shelf energy project and the project’s Avian and Bat Monitoring Plan.