On August 3, the Cape Cod Commission (CCC) will lift a moratorium on wind energy development in state waters off Cape Cod. The map shows where two-dozen turbines can and cannot be located.
The CCC convened a Policy Committee composed of a selectman from each of the Cape’s 15 towns. They were essentially given a map and asked to color within the lines. The CCC hoped this would give every town a voice in the process.
The moratorium gave the CCC 15 months to determine rules and restricted areas for coastal turbine siting. In 2009, the state’s Ocean Management Plan allocated 24 coastal turbines to the Cape, and the map above shows where those turbines can go.
While the regulation passed the CCC last week, it still needs to pass a vote with the Assembly of Delegates to be official. But as of now here’s what this map means.
Prohibited Areas at a Glance
A quick look at the map reveals that a lot of space is off the table. Everything in the green boundary is within the CCC’s jurisdiction. So where did all the red come from?
The entire Cape has a two-mile turbine buffer intended to protect recreational uses. This buffer was extended on the eastern Cape (from Provincetown to the islands south of Chatham) to protect the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary. All of Buzzards Bay and most of Cape Cod Bay are off limits because of sensitive species (endangered Roseate Terns and critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales, respectively.) You may notice there are no markings within 1500 feet of shore; that area is not within the CCC’s jurisdiction, so turbines proposed there would be subject to local municipalities.
That leaves a couple chunks of ocean in Cape Cod Bay, and a big swath of water in Nantucket Sound. While 24 big turbines could all fit within the limited waters in the bay, most of the real estate is in Nantucket Sound. Interestingly, this swath of sea borders the proposed home of Cape Wind – an industrial wind farm that will be home to 130 turbines.
What This Does Not Mean
There are no proposed turbines in these waters yet, and legally all future proposals must come from towns (or some municipal-private partnership). Towns like Truro, which do not border any water where turbines would be allowed, could join an electricity cooperative with neighboring communities. Also, this says nothing about turbine size: We could see 24 660-kilowatt turbines, 24 1.5-megawatt turbines, or they could all be varying sizes. All the turbines could be in one spot, or they could be scattered around the seascape. Until a project is proposed, there’s no saying what it will look like.
Paul Niedzwiecki, the CCC’s Executive Director, says the proposed rules contain minimum performance standards to protect eelgrass, fish stocks, view sheds, and other resources that you cannot draw a boundary around.
“I think there will be an appropriate level of concern,” Niedzwiecki says, “that more of Nantucket sound is not subject to the kinds of protections that could be reflected on the map. But I would direct all of those towns toward the minimum performance standards, which I think do provide a much better process and much better local protection than the Cape Wind process did.”
Basically, these regulations provide a framework for siting turbines in the Cape’s near shore waters. Whether or not the Assembly of Delegates approves the regulations, the moratorium on development will end on August 3.
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