Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells is meeting weekly with Vineyard Wind as the possible first large-scale offshore wind farm in U.S. waters seeks use of an electrical substation in Hyannis.
Ells said he and Vineyard Wind officials are hammering out a draft host agreement, which contains a framework for the project and all issues relevant to establishing a 20-plus-year relationship.
Keeping Barnstable’s drinking water supplies safe from dielectric fluid, which is used to cool hot electrical components, is at the core of the first phase of Ells’ negotiations with Vineyard Wind.
“They will have subsequent phases,” Ells said. “They don’t want to come back in (to negotiate with Barnstable) every time if they can avoid it. They’d like to lay out the framework for their entire project.”
As a result, Barnstable and Vineyard Wind’s host agreement would spell out how their relationship is going to work, now and into the future.
Vineyard Wind has leased a 160,000-acre area in federal waters 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. The offshore wind project will consist of an array of 106 wind turbines, spaced at least eight-tenths of a mile apart, each capable of generating over 8 MW of power.
An offshore substation will collect power from the turbines. Submarine cables will be buried up to six feet below the sea floor from the project site to a landing point on shore.
Once ashore, the transmission cables will be buried and extend to an inland grid connection point.
Vineyard Wind has designated Yarmouth as its preferred landfall site of the subsea transmission cables, and the east parking lot of Covell’s Beach in Barnstable as the alternate landfall site. Both routes pass through sections of the Barnstable Protection Overlay District.
“A big part of the discussion is, okay, where are they going to come in with this first phase?” Ells said.
Vineyard Wind continues to assert that New Hampshire Avenue in Yarmouth is the preferred landfall site over Covell’s Beach in Barnstable, said Charles McLaughlin, Barnstable’s assistant town attorney, on July 17.
“They have indicated that Covell’s landing route may have some advantages but have yet to designate it as such,” McLaughlin said. “If they come up through Covell’s Beach, they would not go the NStar substation at Oak Street because it would exceed their project time limits.”
McLaughlin said it would take three or four years to upgrade the Oak Street substation – and “that’s longer than Vineyard Wind wants to sit around waiting for those upgrades.”
“Covell’s Beach does allow to arching over to the east when they get up toward Independence Park,” McLaughlin added. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s forthcoming.”
Roughly six miles of on-shore transmission cables will be buried and extend to the grid connection point inland. That underground route will run primarily along public roads and segments of existing utility rights-of-way.
McLaughlin said that the town is heavily involved in preparing for State Energy Facilities Siting Board hearings, which are scheduled to start right after Labor Day and include resolution to Barnstable’s environmental concerns.
“We play a less active role in the hearings if we come up with a host community agreement beforehand,” McLaughlin explained.
While the project will require over 25 federal, state, and local permits, construction currently is on track to start in 2019, according to the Vineyard Wind website. The wind farm seeks to be operational by early 2021.
The facility is expected to produce up to 800 megawatts of electricity – part of state leaders’ goal of reaching 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2027.
According to company statements, Vineyard Wind will offer $3.7 billion in energy-related cost savings over the life of the project while eliminating 1.68 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – the equivalent of taking 325,000 cars off the road.
In late May, Vineyard Wind and its partners were selected to negotiate with the state regarding offshore wind energy procurement.
“By positioning Massachusetts as a hub for the emerging offshore wind industry, this competitive procurement will ensure the Commonwealth continues to lead the nation in innovation and renewable energy generation,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said at that time.
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