With South Terminal construction underway, Cape Wind permits list Rhode Island port for turbine staging
NEW BEDFORD – Cape Wind’s federal permits list Quonset Point, R.I., as the staging area for its planned 130-turbine wind farm to be located in Nantucket Sound.
The offshore wind developer has said publicly it will use New Bedford’s South Terminal to stage its materials and equipment provided the port facility is completed within its 19-month timetable.
In order to use the new facility, Cape Wind would need to revise its construction plan with the federal Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, something it has not yet done.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management said Cape Wind’s current construction plan says it “prefers to use the New Bedford terminal if it is available by the time construction commences.” But, she said, in order to use South Terminal for any part of its staging process, Cape Wind would have to file a notice of project change along with a revision of its construction and operations plan.
That would then have to be reviewed and processed by the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management. It is not clear how long the review would take. The spokeswoman referred The Standard-Times to a section of federal law that says only that such reviews are “based on the significance of any changes in available information.”
According to the statute, the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management may approve revisions to construction plans if its review determines the revisions will not cause “undue harm or damage” to life, the environment or objects of historical or archeological significance.
Cape Wind is holding its cards close to its vest, with spokesman Mark Rodgers saying only that “We are continuing to closely monitor the South Terminal project.”
He would not expand on that statement when asked whether Cape Wind would eventually apply to amend its construction plan, or at what point it would do so.
A look at the Record of Decision for Cape Wind’s current permit suggests a review of any revisions could be a lengthy process.
In its Record of Decision from 2010, the Mineral Management Service – the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management’s predecessor – conducted a lengthy review of Cape Wind’s planned activities at Quonset Point.
The review calculated how much nitrogen oxide would be emitted by Cape Wind equipment during its operation at Quonset Point. Prior to its approval, the permit was also reviewed by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which will require Cape Wind equipment use “ultra low” sulfur diesel fuel at Quonset Point.
In 2011, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which opposes Cape Wind, appealed the project’s permit, arguing that the developer intended to break away from its permitted staging area of Quonset Point in favor of New Bedford’s South Terminal.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeal Board ruled to uphold the permit, saying the alliance had “failed to show that Cape Wind will not construct the project as described in Cape Wind’s permit application” by using Quonset Point.
Last week, city and state officials acknowledged “there are no guarantees” South Terminal will be used by Cape Wind.
“If they do, that’s great, but our efforts on offshore wind are geared toward maximizing its use in the long run,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said.
Bill White, director of offshore wind development at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, agreed.
“The terminal is not just built for Cape Wind,” he said. “We designed it as a multi-purpose facility for both cargo and also for offshore wind projects. That includes Cape Wind and future projects.”
Citing news last week that the federal government will auction leases to another wind energy area offshore Massachusetts, White said “The industry is just emerging and they all will need a port to deploy from.”
He noted that unlike Quonset Point, South Terminal is being built with wind turbines in mind.
“We are not worried,” he said.
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