FALMOUTH — An offshore wind farm developer intends to do a better job communicating with the public about its plans to install electric cables to support its project.
On Dec. 19, the Select Board turned down Mayflower Wind's request to explore three public sites for possible electric cables, due to unanswered questions from the public.
“Their lack of trying to partner with this community is what threw me over the edge,” said Select Board Chair Nancy Taylor, in a phone interview with the Times.
Now, Mayflower Wind plans to set up a community meeting early this year to provide more information about the request, said Daniel Hubbard, director of external affairs and general counsel for Mayflower Wind.
Mayflower Wind’s request, considered at the Dec. 19 meeting , included permission to dig archaeological test pits and take soil samples from Worcester Court, Central Park, and Kite Park.
The probes are necessary to determine if the sites are viable for installing electric cables to support Mayflower Wind’s plans to use Falmouth as a base for electrical onshore infrastructure. That infrastructure would connect the energy generated from the proposed wind farm 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard to a regional electric grid, according to the company.
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At the Dec. 19 meeting, the board voted 4-1 to deny Mayflower Wind’s request in its entirety, arguing the company had not tried to partner with the town on the project, according to comments from board members.
Mayflower Wind is one of a handful of offshore wind projects planned in waters south of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard that intend to land their electric cables on the south shores of Cape Cod, allowing the electricity to connect with regional grids. Along with Mayflower Wind is Vineyard Wind and Commonwealth Wind.
Why is the Falmouth Select Board upset with Mayflower Wind?
In phone interviews with the Times, Select Board Vice-Chair Onjalé Scott-Price, board member Doug Brown and Taylor all pointed to Mayflower Wind’s lack of response to questions posed by members of the public at a forum on June 8 as an example of the company's lack of cooperation with the town.
Questions at the June 8 forum included concerns about electromagnetic waves, disruption caused by construction, and general questions about the impact of the project, said Brown.
When questioned at the Dec. 19 meeting, Hubbard said Mayflower Wind planned to host another public meeting where it would respond directly to the questions.
However, the fact that Mayflower Wind had still not responded after six months shows a lack of responsiveness, Taylor said.
Scott-Price was also concerned about a waiver that Mayflower Wind applied for that would allow it to bypass Falmouth’s zoning bylaws.
“It feels like they’re just trying to bulldoze over Falmouth, and I don’t support that,” said Scott-Price.
What happened to the previous agreement that Mayflower Wind had with the town?
Mayflower Wind requested the temporary access agreements to the three sites after its initial agreement with the town had expired. Their previous agreement with the town allowed it to temporarily have access to Worcester Court and Central Park. However, that agreement expired because Mayflower Wind was evaluating other sites at the town’s request, said Hubbard.
The current request would have allowed it to access the three sites for 180 days. The first phase of testing would include digging pits and testing soil, though there could be a second phase of testing for which Falmouth would need to provide written consent.
Samuel Patterson, the one Select Board member who voted in favor of granting Mayflower Wind access to the three sites, characterized the request as a small accommodation that would allow Mayflower Wind to get more facts. He also said clean energy is important to offset the climate impacts of industry.
“We owe something to the future generations of our race, and particularly of Falmouth,” said Patterson.