Library from Massachusetts
The top U.S. energy regulator is chastising his colleagues in a very public Twitter dispute that shines a light on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s inner workings.
“The Wall Street Journal published a scathing editorial on the experience of Falmouth, Massachusetts, which spent $10 million on wind turbines, and it’s been a disaster,” Rep. McClintock said at the hearing. “That small town went deeply into debt to finance them. The townspeople couldn’t bear the noise, the constant flickering of light as 400-foot windmills turned and property values plunged 20 percent. I wonder how that squares with the bright picture that you’ve painted.”
The disagreement over Vineyard Wind’s waiver concerns a technicality in New England’s power markets. The company requested an exemption that would have allowed it to bypass a minimum offer price on subsidized energy resources that participate in the grid operator’s annual markets for reserve power. FERC agreed to a fix proposed by ISO New England that would allow Vineyard Wind to qualify for the exemption in the coming years.
“The small town went deeply into debt to finance them,” McClintock said during the hearing Wednesday. “The townspeople couldn’t bear the noise, the constant flickering light as 400-foot windmills turned. Property values plunged 20 percent. And I wonder how that squares with the bright picture that you painted.” Baker responded that one failed experience shouldn’t undermine “things we need to do with respect to mitigation, adaptation, and resiliency” to deal with climate change, emphasizing that solutions should be “practical and cost effective.”
Falmouth will also spend the next 11 years paying off the remaining $3.6 million in bonds it floated to pay for the first turbine. The stimulus grant covered the cost of the second turbine on condition that it operates as an “energy efficient project.” So unless Falmouth can find someone else to take the turbine, get it running, and persuade regulators that this meets its contractual obligations, the town will be on the hook for another $5 million. That’s a lot of wasted money in a town with fewer than 32,000 residents.
Facing fierce neighborhood opposition and multiple lawsuits, selectmen last week voted to remove the turbines, which had cost the town about $10 million to build, saddling residents with years of debt. “All that’s left now is that we have an albatross to live with,” said Sam Peterson, the one dissenting vote on the five-person board.
Dellinger, a lobsterman, had said in December that “the industry doesn’t want a mitigation strategy.” “The whole process needs to slow down,” he said. “We’re in such a rush.” Among the points of contention is Vineyard Wind’s planned layout. Commercial fishermen want an east-west grid pattern but Vineyard Wind currently has a northeast-to-southwest grid plan.
“The project team hasn’t heard anything from (the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) as the agency remains shuttered,” Vineyard Wind spokesman Scott Farmelant said. An email to a spokeswoman for the bureau generated an automatic response that she is out of the office and not authorized to work at this time because of the shutdown.
Selectmen voted 4-0-1, with Selectman Samuel H. Patterson abstaining, to not relocate the turbines within the town. The board then voted unanimously to ask town administration to create requests for proposals to either leasing property outside of Falmouth to run the wind turbines, sell the turbines, or re-purposing a wind turbine tower as a cellphone and repeater tower.
The two turbines at the Falmouth wastewater treatment facility have been the subject of nine lawsuits filed by neighbors. The Board of Selectmen voted Monday not to allow the turbines to operate again within town borders.
Falmouth Massachusetts – The town that once was host to Governor Deval Patrick’s flagship wind energy project on Cape Cod and the Islands pronounced the Falmouth turbines dead.
A dizzying description of industrial players, leases, government agencies, and technical sounding energy phrases leaves even the determined reader at a loss to keep up. It is clear that the pace of decisions by the federal and state governments are bringing us very close to a no-return point over questions of design, scope and layout for the biggest ocean turbines ever to be installed (roughly 600′ tall or double the height of the Statue of Liberty). ...Whether you’re involved in the ocean economy or not, the current review process on off-shore wind will determine a lot about the future of the coastal New England communities we cherish. While ocean wind power is coming, there remain safety issues yet to be resolved.
The analysis indicates a working wind farm last winter would have reduced the region’s carbon dioxide emissions and wholesale electricity prices, but not enough to eliminate the impact of the region’s pipeline constraints. The analysis also shows that a wind farm’s energy production is highly variable, going up and down fairly dramatically over the course of a day.
Less than three weeks before Rhode Island coastal regulators are set to vote on a key approval for its $2-billion offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind has yet to come forward with a compensation package for the state’s commercial fishermen who say that the layout of the company’s 84 turbines will block access to valuable Atlantic Ocean fishing grounds.
The recent record-breaking auction of development rights for offshore wind-energy installations off the coast of southern New England proves that developers are confident that obstacles to their construction and operation will likely be few. But after just two years of operation of the nation’s first offshore wind facility — the much-heralded Block Island Wind Farm — there is still a great deal unknown about their long-term environmental impact.
Although the wind farm would be built in federal waters and supply power to Massachusetts, Rhode Island has the latitude to effectively veto it. By law, development in federal waters cannot interfere with a state’s coastal activities, such as fishing, and must comply with state regulations.
Brady said the Block Island Wind Farm, owned by Deepwater, is only five turbines, tiny by comparison to Vineyard. Yet charter fishermen, who traditionally operate south of the wind farm from January through April, reported a dismal fishing season: the once bountiful cod had disappeared. Ørsted Energy, the parent company of Deepwater, like the owners of the Vineyard, have a practice of paying off fishermen whose livelihoods are damaged by the wind farms.
Rhode Island coastal regulators granted Vineyard Wind a stay in permitting proceedings on Tuesday, giving the New Bedford company another two months to reach agreement with fishermen who say they would lose access to valuable fishing grounds in the waters where 84 wind turbines would be installed.
The number of spinning giant turbines standing high above Gloucester's Blackburn Industrial Park is now, temporarily at least, down to one.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court rejected a motion to intervene in the court order to shut down Falmouth’s two wind turbines as a nuisance, upholding Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty II’s decision. “We see no reason to disturb the judge’s ruling,” Associate Justices Peter J. Rubin, Gabrielle R. Wolohojian, and Amy L. Blake wrote in their decision, noting the history of the litigation.