HYANNIS – It’s no Cape Wind, but that’s no guarantee one of the proposed wind farms off Martha’s Vineyard won’t face its own headwinds.
“We’ve been here for over 40 years, and everything changes,” Joe Damico of West Yarmouth said about a proposal by offshore wind energy developer Vineyard Wind to connect a transmission cable to the electric grid on Cape Cod. “I’m just worried that anything they do is going to make things worse.”
Damico was among a small group of people to attend an open house hosted by Vineyard Wind Monday at the Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis to explain the company’s plans for a project that would be located south of Martha’s Vineyard with the potential to generate up to 800 megawatts of power.
While he thinks wind power is a great idea, Damico said he worries about the cables’ effect on Lewis Bay, including possible disruptions to commercial scallop dredging and water circulation.
Monday’s open house is part of Vineyard Wind’s outreach during the project’s Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review for a cable connection needed between the wind farm and an electric substation in Barnstable. Local residents and officials have raised concerns about the potential for the contamination of drinking water if there is a leak of transformer fluids at the substation. Stephens has previously said the company would build a system to handle any spills as part of the upgrades that would be needed at the substation.
The connection to the grid would require the installation of up to three cables across 4.5 miles of land and sea. Developers prefer that the cables be buried 6 to 7 feet below the seafloor and routed through Lewis Bay and Yarmouth before reaching the nearest grid connection at the Barnstable substation.
The wind farm would consist of “an array of wind turbines, spaced at least eight-tenths of a mile apart, that are each capable of generating more than 8 megawatts of power,” according to an information sheet distributed by Vineyard officials. The wind farm could bring power to more than 400,000 homes and businesses across the state.
Vineyard Wind is among three companies vying for state contracts to sell offshore wind power to utilities in Massachusetts. The other two projects – Bay State Wind and Revolution Wind – include plans to bring cables onshore in Somerset at the former Brayton Point coal plant. The off-Cape plant has been sold by Dynegy Inc. to Commercial Development Company Inc., which has plans to develop the property with offshore wind energy in mind, according to a statement about the sale released Monday.
All three projects would be located 15 to 25 miles off the coast.
During the state’s environmental review process, the public and other regulators provide comment on a rough sketch of a project and its effects. Vineyard Wind outlined its case in an environmental notification form, which was submitted in December, said Erich Stephens, the company’s chief development officer.
The project has received input from numerous stakeholders over the past half decade, including local, state and federal governments; tribes; environmentalists; and working groups from a number of fisheries, Stephens said.
“It’s very far away, and more than just being far away from the Cape, it’s in an area that’s been identified as being appropriate for offshore wind,” he said.
Barbara Stone, an offshore energy consultant, said she wants to learn more about the types of equipment that would be used during the construction phase.
“They need to think about where (the vessels) would be berthed in the event of a hurricane or a severe winter storm,” she said.
After the open house, Stephens acknowledged some of the concerns raised by Damico and others about the potential effects on Lewis Bay.
“There’s more commercial ferry traffic than ever before, and recreational boats too,” he said. “And there’s this overarching concern about the poor environmental condition of Lewis Bay.”
Vineyard Wind has been working with the town of Yarmouth to draft a host community agreement, and the Yarmouth Board of Selectmen will review the project again tonight, Stephens said.
The deadline to comment on the environmental notification form is Jan. 30.
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