While Cape Wind faces stiff opposition to its proposed turbine site in Nantucket Sound, the other wind farm in southeastern Massachusetts appears to be moving forward without the same intense scrutiny.
That could change, however, when the results of an avian study being conducted in Buzzards Bay are known.
“The purpose of the study is to let the birds tell us where to put the project with a minimum of conflict,” said Richard Podolsky, a certified senior ecologist leading the survey for marine construction guru Jay Cashman’s renewable energy subsidiary, Patriot Renewables LLC.
Cashman proposed the $750 million project last May, but the company has yet to decide on a specific location or layout for the 60 to 120 turbines that would be required to produce the desired 300 megawatts of energy from the facility.
The project also would require special legislation in order to comply with the Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries Act, said Lisa Capone, a spokeswoman with the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Buzzards Bay is part of two of the state’s five ocean sanctuaries.
For now, the bird study is the primary focus of project planners, Todd Presson, a spokesman for Patriot Renewables, said in an interview earlier this week.
“We are going one step at a time,” Presson said.
The three sites currently being considered for wind turbines are off the coast of Fairhaven, Dartmouth and Naushon Island, one of the Elizabeth Islands, but wind and bird data will be needed before final sites are chosen. The species of greatest concern is the roseate tern, which is listed as endangered, he said.
Studies of roseate tern populations on the bay began last year. The focus of the surveys was expanded at the end of August to include bird counts at night.
Buzzards Bay is home to the largest nesting population in the northeastern part of the country for the terns, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Boat-based day counts that have been taking place since April have included the collection of information on species, age, behavior and the height at which the birds are flying, Podolsky said. Night survey work is being conducted from a barge outfitted with radar and a 130-foot-tall wind data tower, he said.
Opponents of the larger and more well-known Cape Wind project have argued that a state environmental impact report released earlier this year did not adequately take into account bird flight patterns at night.
Cape Wind’s study indicated that roseate terns would not be dramatically affected by the 130 wind turbines that company wants to place in Nantucket Sound.
While birds counted by radar cannot be identified, the night work provides a good sense of how many birds are migrating through the area, Podolsky said.
At least two to three years of data are necessary to make a determination on the best location for turbines to reduce impacts on bird populations, he said.
Podolsky has participated in more than 30 wind-power projects across the country and said the outcome is highly dependent on the location of the project.
“We’re cautiously optimistic, that somewhere in Buzzards Bay there’s a place that will be out of harms way,” he said.
By Patrick Cassidy
13 September 2007
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