A developer of a proposed trio of wind farms in Buzzards Bay has dropped part of the project planned off the Fairhaven shoreline, citing the population of endangered roseate terns and the area’s high boat traffic.
Patriot Renewables, a Quincy company affiliated with Jay Cashman Inc., announced the decision Monday to end plans for the cluster of turbines off Fairhaven in the area south of Sconticut Neck and West Island.
Patriot Renewables continues to study two other Buzzards Bay locations – off Dartmouth and Naushon Island, one of the Elizabeth Islands.
Liz Isherwood, a spokeswoman for Patriot Renewables, said the firm’s goal would continue to be to develop a project that would generate 300 megawatts of electricity. Instead of the three locations for up to 120 wind turbines, there would be two.
Ms. Isherwood said the power lost from one of the three clusters could be made up in different ways, including using larger generating turbines or more turbines in a cluster.
Patriot Renewables is one of several firms working on plans to generate electricity off the Massachusetts coast. Most of the projects that have developed specific proposals have run afoul of residents, environmentalists or others for reasons including views, noise, boat traffic and birds.
In a statement Monday, Patriot Renewables said that “based on results of ongoing environmental studies for the South Coast Offshore Wind Project, it has decided to eliminate Study Area 1 located off of West Island” in Fairhaven. The firm has been studying the area in Buzzards Bay since 2005.
“It has become apparent that the study area offshore of Fairhaven and West Island is not an ideal site for wind turbines,” Mr. Cashman was quoted as saying in the statement. He said the decision was intended “to avoid negative avian impacts; our avian studies to date indicate that there is a higher concentration of roseate terns in that area of the bay because of its proximity to Bird and Ram islands.”
In addition, the statement said, there is a higher concentration of boat traffic as boats move from New Bedford Harbor to the Cape Cod Canal or Woods Hole.
Ms. Isherwood said Patriot Renewables will continue studying the other two areas and expects to report its findings during the summer.
State Rep. William M. Straus, D-Mattapoisett, who represents Fairhaven and who has been an opponent of the Patriot Renewables plan for Buzzards Bay, said the announcement was “not unexpected.”
“They were told in comments that came in over a year ago” that both the avian life and commercial and private boat traffic through the area presented problems, Rep. Straus said.
“The area never should have been under consideration,” he said. “I am very happy this part of Buzzards Bay will remain natural.”
He said he will continue to focus on the other areas Patriot Renewables is studying because he considers any issue related to Buzzards Bay to affect his constituents.
State Rep. John F. Quinn, D-Dartmouth, who also opposes Patriot Renewables’ plan, said he wants to uphold existing rules that would make it hard to site wind turbines in Buzzards Bay. Rep. Quinn said the state should not change the law to benefit one project.
Rep. Quinn was referring to a change pending in the Legislature, and said he will continue to fight it.
Mr. Cashman and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi have a close personal relationship, and claims have been made that Rep. DiMasi is helping Patriot Renewables by supporting a change in the law that could benefit its wind farm plans.
Last month, the speaker toured the Patriot Renewables locations for the wind turbine clusters at the invitation of Rep. Quinn.
Patriot Renewables has said three factors were important to the wind turbine siting: Strong, steady winds; relatively shallow water and protection from heavy seas; and proximity to existing transmission lines. The project could produce 200 to 300 construction and related jobs, along with 20 to 30 long-term jobs.
Mr. Cashman had said he was somewhat knowledgeable about issues such as fishing and navigation, but much less so about birds.
The Massachusetts Audubon Society had said it was “very skeptical” about Buzzards Bay for wind turbines, noting that the bay is a “roseate tern factory” since it is home to 99 percent of the state’s population and 45 percent of North America’s population of the endangered birds.
The birds were added to the endangered species list in 1987.
In addition to Patriot Renewables, there is a plan for 130 turbines on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod put forward by Cape Wind and another by Blue H for turbines placed on anchored barges far south of Martha’s Vineyard in deep water. Other plans for wind turbines off Massachusetts also have been discussed.
By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times staff writer
6 May 2008
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