The March 12 Vineyard Wind public forum at Barnstable Town Hall gave residents a chance to question company officials.
Attending on behalf of Vineyard Wind were Erich Stephens, director of Development and Nate Mayo, manager of Policy & Development. They called the meeting part of a continuing dialogue about on-shore and near-shore activities that’s entering its second year.
“The reason we’re here starts with state policy,” Mayo said, meaning statewide emissions reduction goals established by the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, and the 2016 Energy Diversity Act, designed diversify the state’s energy portfolio and reduce ratepayers’ costs.
Stephens and Mayo introduced a couple of new faces: Jack Arruda, the project’s technical development manager, responsible for grid interconnection, on-shore cable route planning and installation, and operations and maintenance facilities; and Ted Barten, a principal and environmental consultant at Epsilon Associates out of Maynard.
In the audience were Town Councilor Britt Beedenbender, council liaison to the Barnstable Infrastructure and Energy Committee, along with Peter Doyle and Gordon Starr, the committee’s chairman and vice chairman, respectively, plus about 75 curious people, including members of Boy Scout Troop #54, working on a Citizenship and the Community badge.
What’s the construction timeline? Construction for laying transmission lines landing at Covell’s Beach is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of this year, likely October or November, and continue through the spring of 2020.
No construction will occur during the summer months. Road construction, which is entirely underground, will end by Memorial Day and resume after Labor Day in the fall of 2020, with the goal of the wind farm’s becoming operational in 2021 and fully completed by June 1, 2022.
“All of the infrastructure is going to be under the beach, 30 feet below the beach at the tide line,” Mayo said. “The offshore cable will be buried 6 to 8 feet beneath the seabed.”
Vineyard Wind will drill in the Covell’s Beach parking lot and under the beach to link offshore transmission cables to an Eversource electrical substation at Independence Park. The underground cables will run from Craigville Beach Road, up Strawberry Hill Road, along Wequaquet, Phinneys and Attucks lanes, to Independence Drive.
“We’ll come back in the fall and hopefully finish the road construction by early 2021,” Arruda said. “The goal is to send power down this cable by March/April 2021.”
In close coordination with the town, Mayo said, the company expects on-shore work to progress at about 100 to 200 feet per day. A detailed transportation management plan is in the works.
“Duct bank installation involves digging a trench, with splice vault installation about every 50 feet and cable-pulling tube spacers encased in concrete,” Mayo said. The Covell’s Beach parking lot will be repaved and the bathhouse, restored.
The cables terminate at Independence Park, where a full containment station will capture all fluid containing-equipment plus rainwater, he continued. Once the cables are operational, “the expectation is that the sound will be unnoticable to residents.”
What are the hours for construction? asked Joan Richards of Centerville.
“It will be daytime construction 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Barten said. “You’re going to have to saw-cut the street, backfill the trench, and repave. The noise will be sporadic as you go through the day, no different than putting in a water main. We can move this along at 100-200 feet a day. The hope is to work at a good pace shortly after Labor Day and work as the weather permits.”
Will there be sailing restrictions? asked Scott Bearse of Barnstable.
“Per federal regulation, there’s full access,” Mayo said. “There’s no restriction at all,” although there will be some safety restrictions during construction, Arruda interjected.
How was Phinneys Lane chosen? asked Paul Richard of Centerville. “That’s a major north/south route.”
“Phinneys Lane is going to be one of the major laying of sewer in the upcoming years,” answered Beedenbender. “We’re timing it together to create the least amount of disruption possible.”
What about crossing Route 132 – is that open trench construction?
“As long as the town is in agreement, then we would likely do 132 at night,” Arruda said. “We want to be able to backfeed the wind turbines as soon as they are installed.”
You mentioned backfeeding power? said Rob Olsen of Marstons Mills.
“The power flows in both directions,” Arruda said. “In order to construct the wind farm, the interconnection to the grid is probably the most important part. You have multiple individual generators here. It’s kind of a sequential installation process; you actually bring the wind farm on sequentially over time.
“Shortly after we start (on-shore construction), they’ll be installing foundations for the wind turbines,” he continued. “Monopile will be hammered into the seabed. We will actually be fully commissioned in the early months of 2022. We’re committed to be online before June 1, 2022.”
What happens if you can’t produce electricity at that price? asked Rob O’Leary of Cummaquid.
“The risk is on the project,” Arruda said. “We have to either meet it, or it’s on our investors.”
In addition, a lesson learned from the Cape Wind project, Mayo said, is that the project is required to post a bond to fully fund the decommissioning. “But we’re not going to be facilitating a ‘Cape Wind 2,'” he added.
Virtually all of the experience with wind farms is in Europe, Barten noted. “There’s a good track record to go on. This is a utility-scale project” akin to wind farms in the North Sea and Baltic Sea.
“This agreement, if you analyze it, is a good one, and it represents a lot of progress,” Mayo concluded. “The operations center at Vineyard Haven will house 40 to 50 technicians and operations folks, and construction jobs numbering in the low thousands are going to be operating out of New Bedford. This may not be the only off-shore facility Vineyard Wind develops in Massachusetts.”
Located 14 miles south of the islands and 35 miles south of the Cape, the 800-megawatt wind farm is expected to cost at least $2 billion to build. Once operational, its 106 turbines will generate enough clean energy to power more than 400,000 homes at an average 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s about 1.4 cents/KWh of direct savings to taxpayers, or $1.4 billion over the project’s 25-year lifespan.
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