An offshore wind farm south of Tuckernuck Island ““ completely separate from the one proposed by Cape Wind Associates in Nantucket Sound ““ that could meet Nantucket’s energy needs, is currently being pursued by town officials from Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, as well as Congressman Bill Delahunt.
The concept has already been endorsed by the Nantucket Planning & Economic Development Commission, which recently drafted a letter to the federal Minerals Management Service, the agency responsible for permitting offshore wind energy projects in federal waters, regarding such a project.
Although the site is currently identified by the MMS as an alternative location for the Cape Wind project, planning director Andrew Vorce said the idea is to work with a developer other than Cape Wind in a public-private partnership that could benefit the island.
“We’re not considering this as an alternative to Cape Wind. We’re looking at this for the benefit of Nantucket,” Vorce said. “The town of Nantucket isn’t going to be building windmills, but what we’d like to set up is a climate or environment to attract a private partner to do that and out of our participation, make sure our local needs are met.”
A House of Representatives bill co-sponsored by Delahunt would create a 30-square-mile zone three miles south of Tuckernuck that would be designated as an offshore renewable energy zone. The bill, known as the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act, would also provide loans for the development of new technologies and extend renewable energy tax credits to such utilities, according to a press release from Delahunt’s office.
Vorce said Delahunt is currently working to secure an earmark in a federal spending bill that would appropriate funds for a study of the site south of Tuckernuck.
In a May 21 letter to the MMS that dealt primarily with the agency’s ongoing development of regulations for offshore wind energy development, the NP&EDC chairman Barry Rector also wrote about Nantucket’s interest in a wind farm south of Tuckernuck.
“We would like to make the MMS aware that Nantucket, working in cooperation with Martha’s Vineyard, will be proactively examining a site Southwest of Tuckernuck Island as a potential site for offshore wind development,” Rector wrote. “The purpose of this investigation is to establish the commercial and environmental viability of this site, which I feel should be supported by the local community because it is not in close proximity to sensitive tourism and recreational resources and noise impacts to residents would be minimal.”
The Board of Selectmen in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard has also endorsed the concept of an offshore energy zone south of Tuckernuck, and recently stated that it is interested in expanding the energy zone so that it extends to waters off the south shore of Edgartown, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Times.
In his own letter to the MMS, also drafted on May 21, Delahunt wrote about the prospect of an offshore wind energy development off Tuckernuck.
“The Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission has already informed the MMS that the thirty square miles of federal waters south of Tuckernuck Island have potential for offshore renewable energy development,” Delahunt wrote. “This area is one of the most productive areas in New England for offshore wind energy. Nantucket officials are interested in developing an economically viable plan and intent to draw on the model used by Hull (MA). Given the strong support of the Commission and the Nantucket Selectmen, I am now working with them to secure federal and state funding to undertake such a project. In addition, the Town of Edgartown Board of Selectmen unanimously endorsed the Nantucket proposal and is interested in seeing the planning area broadened to an area that is up to fifty square miles so that it approaches the waters of Martha’s Vineyard and offers the opportunity to develop offshore wave and tidal energy.”
The town of Hull, Mass., has erected two land-based wind turbines and was recently honored by the federal Department of Energy with a “Wind Power Pioneer Award.” In 2001, the town installed a 660 kilowatt turbine on its harborfront property, and in 2006 another 1.8 megawatt turbine was built on a closed landfill. Together, the turbines supply over 10 percent of the town’s energy needs and power its street and traffic lights.
Selectman Michael Kopko, who supports the Cape Wind project, said the proposal is essentially being pushed by Delahunt, although he is enthusiastic about the concept.
“I think the big draw about this site is there could be some serious economic development for us,” Kopko said. “They’d have to route the power through here, so there will be a transfer station or whatever else they need. I think it’s pretty exciting stuff.”
By Jason Graziadei
I&M Staff Writer
31 May 2007