Vineyard Wind has agreed to pay the town of Barnstable up to $16 million plus taxes over the next 25 years for the rights to land transmission cables for its offshore wind farm at Covell’s Beach.
Town Manager Mark Ells signed a Host Community Agreement with Vineyard Wind on Oct. 3.
Vineyard Wind plans to build the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and approximately 34 miles south of the Cape.
“I believe Covell’s Beach landing will be a primary site,” said Ells, whom the council authorized in September to sign into the agreement on the town’s behalf. The transmission cables then would be routed underground to an existing electrical substation at Independence Park.
“They’re expecting a couple of construction seasons at Covell’s Beach,” Ells said, but the construction would occur in the off-season, without any limitations on beach access or swimming.
“They’ll work with us to keep a portion of the beach open during construction, and they’ll pay for repaving and rehabbing the Covell’s Beach bath house,” he said.
The Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board and Department of Environmental Protection have yet to decide on the final route of Vineyard Wind transmission cables. The siting board is currently meeting in Boston on plans to connect the 800-megawatt wind farm to the regional electric grid.
Ells said the major objectives of Barnstable’s host agreement are prohibiting future interconnections and protecting Barnstable’s water resources through a closed, containerized substation.
As compensation, Vineyard Wind agreed to pay up to $16 million to Barnstable in the first 25 years of the project for an easement at Covell’s Beach, one of two prospective cable landfall sites. The other potential landfall site is Lewis Bay at Nantucket Avenue in West Yarmouth.
Vineyard Wind has been in negotiations with Yarmouth over a possible host agreement, however many people who live near Lewis Bay in West Yarmouth have urged selectmen to reject such and agreement, fearing environmental damage to the heavily used bay.
“Yarmouth remains in the mix for a potential HCA. Vineyard Wind will continue to work with Yarmouth to reach an agreement. However, the key point is that the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) is the sole authority that will determine the route for the transmission connection between the offshore wind farm and the substation in Barnstable,” said Scott Farmelant, spokesman for Vineyard Wind.
In addition to the host agreement payments, Ells said, Barnstable would earn between $710,000 and $950,000 a year in new tax dollars. Altogether, that’s approximately $1.5 million in any given year, Ells said, or $32 million for the first 25 years.
“As they began to look at the project, they recognized that Covell’s had some advantages,” Ells said. “They laid out both cable landings (Phase 1 and 2). We agreed in our discussions, ‘Let’s do this once.’
“If they do not come through Covell’s Beach, Barnstable still receives a host fee of $6 million,” Ells added. “The same deal applies in phase two.”
Should Vineyard Wind later decide to proceed with a second phase, Ells said, the company would then build another substation on Oak Street.
Ells and Charles McLaughlin, Barnstable’s assistant town attorney, have been meeting regularly with Erich Stephens, Vineyard Wind Chief Development Officer, and Nathaniel Mayo, Vineyard Wind Development and Policy manager, since May to negotiate terms of the host agreement.
In addition to federal and state permitting reviews, Vineyard Wind is actively consulting with Wampanoag tribal and local agencies, including the Barnstable Conservation Commission and Planning Board and the Cape Cod Commission. Federal and state agencies also are reviewing the project from an environmental standpoint.
Scheduled to be operational in 2021, Vineyard Wind says the 106 turbines will furnish clean energy to serve some 400,000 Massachusetts homes and businesses. Vineyard Wind also says the project also will reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 1.6 million tons per year – the equivalent of removing 325,000 cars from state roads, according to an October 5 statement by Vineyard Wind.
The Barnstable Town Council is scheduled to resume discussions about Vineyard Wind at its next meeting on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in Barnstable Town Hall.
Managing Editor John Basile contributed to this report.