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The company behind the controversial wind energy project off Cape Cod has signed a two-year lease with the state for a terminal in New Bedford harbor that will act as the staging area for the offshore construction.

Under the agreement, Cape Wind will pay the state $4.5 million to use the 28-acre site for two years, starting January 2015. It will use the facility called South Terminal to assemble workers, materials, and equipment, which will be ferried about 30 miles to Nantucket Sound, where more than 100 wind turbines will be installed.

Cape Wind estimated construction of the $2.5 billion project, touted as the nation’s first offshore wind farm, will create between 600 and 1,000 jobs. Previously, Cape Wind has considered using port facilities in Rhode Island.

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The terminal, which occupies 28 acres just inside New Bedford’s hurricane barrier, is itself still under construction but is expected to be completed in December. Despite its waterfront location, the terminal will be able to support loads of up to 4,000 pounds per square foot and a crane weighing nearly 3 million pounds that could lift cargo weighing more than 1.1 million pounds. Backers of the project said South Terminal could later be used for staging future offshore wind projects.

“We have positioned Massachusetts as a first-in-the-nation hub for a new offshore wind industry that will bring jobs and a clean source of Massachusetts-made energy for future generations,” Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement.

The New Bedford harbor has undergone renovations in preparation for the offshore wind project. Dredging, engineering, construction, and environmental cleanup efforts associated with the project are expected to cost $100 million, paid by the state.

The Cape Wind project has been fiercely opposed by Cape and Island residents who say the massive wind towers will destroy views, do other environmental damage, and increase electricity costs for Massachusetts residents. Opponents have filed several legal challenges over the years — some are still pending — but Cape Wind has largely prevailed and moved forward.

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Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.