Vineyard Wind aims to turn on its proposed offshore wind farm in 2021.
Nathaniel Mayo, manager of policy and development for Vineyard Wind, appeared before the Falmouth Board of Selectmen on Monday, September 24, to outline the company’s plan to bring offshore wind into the power grid.
“Our construction is slated to begin in 2019,” Mr. Mayo said. “We’re well into permitting the plan. We plan to flip the switch on in 2021.”
Vineyard Wind leased 160,000 acres of ocean approximately 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 35 miles south of Cape Cod. It will be the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project, Mr. Mayo said. The project’s budget was not discussed with selectmen.
The company plans to install up to 100 wind turbines to generate 800 megawatt hours of energy annually. This is approximately twice the energy capacity of all the homes on Cape Cod, he said.
“This injects the Cape’s power needs, and more, into the grid,” Mr. Mayo said.
Mr. Mayo described this effort as an environmental project, as the aim is to use the winds to create affordable, sustainable energy to meet and exceed the commonwealth’s green energy goals.
He highlighted the project’s impact on greenhouse gases: the project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.6 million tons per year, nitrogen oxide emissions by approximately 1,000 tons per year and sulfur dioxide emissions by 860 tons per year.
It would also benefit the local and regional economies, as well as the ratepayers. He estimated the project will save ratepayers a combined $1.4 billion in energy costs over 25 years.
Selectman Douglas C. Brown asked how this project would impact whales, asking if they would be able to navigate through or around the wind farm.
Mr. Mayo described this as a hard question to answer.
“These animals behave differently every year,” he said, adding that every ecosystem is different.
However, Vineyard Wind will monitor wildlife activity and include safeguards to protect them. The project includes a $3 million marine mammal innovation fund, which will support researching and developing advanced marine mammal protections.
Mr. Mayo noted Vineyard Wind supported the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound’s goal of establishing Nantucket Sound as a historic landmark.
Audra Parker, executive director of the alliance, asked selectmen to sign a letter supporting a bill that would establish Nantucket Sound as a historic landmark. This would protect the sound from future energy development.
Noting the alliance spent years fighting Cape Wind, Ms. Parker said she would like to see the ocean zoned like the land. There are places where energy projects can work, but Nantucket Sound is not one of them.
“There are areas worthy of protection,” she said, citing the sound’s rich tribal and maritime history.
Selectmen took no action on the matter.
“I hate to restrict future needs,” Selectman Samuel H. Patterson said, noting that technology is going to change over time.
Selectman Douglas H. Jones agreed, noting there might one day be a non-intrusive energy technology that could fit within Nantucket Sound.
“Who knows what new technology will come out?” Mr. Jones asked.