Library filed under Offshore Wind from Massachusetts
As local opposition to a proposed high-wattage transmission cable intensifies, Yarmouth selectmen have rejected a second offer by offshore energy company Vineyard Wind to pay for costs incurred as the town considers a host community agreement with the company.
In response to feedback from fishermen and community members, Bay State Wind has revised the turbine layout pattern for its Massachusetts offshore wind project.
When he spoke to fishermen across the pond, he learned they were wary of navigating between the turbines. “If the little boats are afraid to go in there, there’s no way a trawler from New Bedford is going to go in there,” Hansen said.
"The fishing industry can only hope that the wind energy developers finally recognize that U.S. fishermen are going to do whatever is necessary to continue to fish where they please for the foreseeable future," Dave Wallace, a Maryland-based consultant for the ocean clam industry, said in an email. "Developers have two choices, a confrontational way, which is time-consuming and expensive, or through the two industries finding common grounds where both can survive and prosper."
The Vineyard Wind project is split into two, 400-megawatt phases, with the first phase scheduled for completion by January 15, 2022, and the second phase by January 15, 2023. The price for energy and the environmental attributes (called renewable energy credits) starts at 7.4 cents a kilowatt hour in phase one and 6.5 cents a kilowatt hour in phase two. The prices escalate at 2.5 percent a year over the 20-year life of the contract, with an average blended cost of 8.9 cents a kilowatt hour.
A plan by offshore power company Vineyard Wind to bring a high-wattage cable through Lewis Bay and onshore in West Yarmouth is energizing residents, who say that no amount of compensation is worth the damage the project could potentially inflict. “This is not about money,” West Yarmouth resident David Bernstein said at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, which was devoted primarily to public comment on the project. “I don’t care if Vineyard Wind gives $10 million a year to the town of Yarmouth. If the bay is killed, it is killed.”
Given that everyone from Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to Democratic Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have all been vocal in their support for offshore wind power, the question is not if more wind farms will be built, it is if they will be built in a way that works for fishermen — commercial and recreational alike.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island have announced offshore wind projects aimed at delivering a combined 1,200 megawatts of energy, enough to power 400,000 homes.
The Vineyard Wind bid was awarded under a Massachusetts law that encourages utilities to get more of their power from clean energy sources. The Baker administration is overseeing a similar effort to increase hydroelectric power for Massachusetts and is working on a different plan by Avangrid to build a power line through Maine to import electricity from Canada.
A health care provider with hospitals in Fall River, New Bedford and Wareham intends to buy offshore wind energy from one of three companies bidding for long-term contracts with the state’s three electricity distributors.
Many fisherpeople see a future where segments of their industry will ultimately disappear unless the federal government ensures their concerns are taken into account in the construction and development of wind farms. Fisherpeople’s fears include the incompatibility of certain types of fishing gear with the clustered placement of wind turbines and a lack of site-specific research regarding economic and ecological impacts of the turbines.
In a letter to the Department of Public Utilities on Monday, the team evaluating the bids for a long-term offshore wind energy generation contract said it needs the extra 30 days but still expects to submit a negotiated contract for state approval by July 31. The companies said meeting the April 23 deadline "has proven impossible as a result of factors outside the Distribution Companies' control."
Looking to create a sea change in energy production in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker signed “An Act to Promote Energy Diversity” with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2016. A key provision of the legislation mandated that utilities solicit long-term contracts with offshore wind farm developers, with the goal of adding 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2027.
“It’s true that the area where the turbines are have created habitat that attracts fish, which is good; but in the area where the cable lines extend to the mainland, it’s completely devoid of fish,” said Michael Pierdinock, chairman of the Massachusetts Recreational Alliance, which represents about 50,000 recreational fishermen. “These used to be fruitful fishing grounds.”
There’s a lot of buzz in New Bedford these days about the offshore wind industry — and for good reason.
“I’m appalled that the state (and the town of Yarmouth) would consider a project that would damage this fragile watershed,” said Andrea Gottfried, a taxpayer in West Yarmouth. “Lewis Bay is historically, ecologically and economically important to Cape Cod residents and visitors from around the world.”
Toxic transformer fluids could pollute drinking water if leaks occur at a substation where an offshore wind energy developer plans to connect to the region’s electric grid, according to an attorney for the town of Barnstable. “We haven’t seen the plans,” Charles McLaughlin said of Vineyard Wind’s plan to connect an underground transmission cable to an Eversource substation in Independence Park.
The three firms vying to build the first major offshore wind farm in the United States filed their proposals on Wednesday with Massachusetts officials. Each of the firms kept their pricing a secret, so they publicly tried to differentiate their projects based on size, transmission approaches, construction timetables, and partnerships.
Three offshore wind energy developers bid Wednesday on contracts to sell electricity to Massachusetts power companies, taking the next big step in a process that could set turbines spinning south of Martha’s Vineyard within the next five years.