FALMOUTH – Mayflower Wind inched one step forward in its long journey to complete an offshore wind farm that would touch down in Falmouth.
The Falmouth Select Board on Monday approved a temporary right-to-entry agreement with Mayflower Wind, allowing for tests to be conducted at two beach parking lots.
Mayflower Wind will have 180 days to conduct geotechnical boring investigations in the parking lots of Surf Drive and Falmouth Heights beaches, where they will gather data on the soil conditions of those locations. It will also perform sound level measurements at 565 Blacksmith Road, which could be a possible site for a substation.
The company, a joint venture project between Shell and EDP Renewables, is in the beginning phases of planning an 804-megawatt wind farm to be located 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 20 miles south of Nantucket.
Submarine export cables will run north through Muskeget Channel, and then west toward Vineyard Sound, before making landfall in Falmouth. An underground electric cable will connect power to an onshore substation somewhere further inland in Falmouth. The boring investigations will determine which site is best for the underground cables to be drilled horizontally.
Seth Kaplan, director of external affairs for Mayflower Wind, said it is not known exactly where the substation will be yet, but it will be much farther inland. No final decisions on site location will be made until a full routing analysis has been completed, and many surveys and investigations are needed to gather on-site data, he said Monday.
Falmouth residents expressed concern about the project during the public hearing, wondering why abutters have not been notified and what were the health effects of electromagnetic fields.
Kaplan said without knowing the specific locations of the substation and the cables, it’s impossible for Mayflower Wind to notify the abutters. He said abutters will be notified when the locations are determined.
“You can’t notify the abutters if you don’t know who they are,” Kaplan said.
Gradient, a third-party EMF specialist working on behalf of Mayflower Wind, completed preliminary electric and magnetic field assessments and determined that the onshore underground cable configurations will be at magnetic field levels below health guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.
“Everything that we’re looking at doing would be well, well below that level,” Kaplan said. “The largest place of concern would be if you’re sitting on the manhole.”
The cables will be buried at least 3.3 feet beneath a parking lot or a street median and will be buried about 26 to 30 feet underneath the beach, according to a memo submitted by Gradient to the Select Board.
“Because these fields drop off dramatically with distance, if you’re at a random location in the parking lot it’s probably true that you cannot even detect the presence of the underground lines,” Gradient Principal Dr. Peter Valberg said.
Different organizations and agencies have thoroughly researched the potential health effects of EMF for years and have not found enough correlation between EMF and cancer, Valberg said.
Select Board member Samuel Patteson, a retired scientist, said people are overgeneralizing electromagnetic fields by thinking they are all dangerous.
“These frequencies are 60 cycles per second and have never been shown to do any damage to our chemistry or cell structures,” Patterson said. “When you overgeneralize, electromagnetic fields are very different at different frequencies.”
Microwaves, for example, are tens of thousands of frequencies higher than the proposed cables, he said.
Depending on the boring investigations, if Mayflower Wind decides to install the cables, the project would then seek a series of state, federal and local permit approvals. Mayflower Wind would also come back to the town for further approvals and enter into a host community agreement with Falmouth.
“We’re not talking about beginning the relationship yet,” Kaplan said. “We’re waving to each other from across the street in expectation of hopefully entering into a relationship.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding