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Watchdogs question Mayflower Wind’s Sakonnet River plan  

Credit:  Watchdogs Question Mayflower Wind’s Sakonnet River Plan | By James Merolla | Newport This Week | August 25, 2022 | www.newportthisweek.com ~~

Another wind farm turbine project has local fishermen, officials and others upset even in the early stages, especially because it will go through Rhode Island waters to power homes in Massachusetts.

On Aug. 16, Mayflower Wind, which holds one of seven leases for proposed wind farms in federal waters near Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, held a virtual community meeting with residents in Portsmouth. Mayflower, which may foist 149 turbines running at full capacity someday, said it could generate enough power to light nearly one million homes in Massachusetts. However, to get that power to shore, they want to go directly up the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth.

The company has applied to connect its wind farm to the transmission facility in Somerset, the former Brayton Point, via cables set to be laid up the Sakonnet River for two miles across Island Park and into Mt. Hope Bay. That would send some 1,200 megawatts to southeast Mass. The other 1,200 would go to Cape Cod through Falmouth. But the company has also applied for a variance in Portsmouth for double the cables to run to Somerset should it be more economically feasible to do so locally.

Going up river, the company said, is the least problematic route. But local anglers, who said they could not ask questions at the Aug. 16 event, said the cables would be costly to ratepayers and would harm local sea life and fisheries. Greg Vespe, president of the R.I. Saltwater Anglers Association, was dissatisfied with the Mayflower Wind town forum.

“No public comment was allowed; no direct questions by the public were allowed,” he said. “The moderator, which was a Mayflower Wind employee, chose to read questions that had been submitted privately. Clearly, questions were chosen and phrased in a way meant to shine a positive light on [them]. This was not a town hall style meeting, as advertised. It was a one-hour infomercial.”

City Councilor Kate Leonard said she experienced similar forums for Newport officials some months ago where questions were not freely taken. “I have asked many times, ‘Who is going to pay for the cables? How will this affect the ratepayer?’” she told NTW. “I think it will be passed onto the ratepayer. I can’t get any answers.

“I have more questions. Is it a cable that can be pulled out like in other places? And the cables leading to the turbines, what will the effect be on noise and sea life? I have asked for months, and they haven’t answered.”

Leonard cited repair costs down the road. “To replace one gear box on turbines is $3 to $4 million. Who pays for that?” she asked.

Vespe said that Coastal Resources Management Council has recommended that the cables make land in Bourne, Massachusetts. “Massachusetts doesn’t want the cables,” said Vespe. “This action will destroy the seabed floor.

“RI CRMC has identified the Sakonnet River as critical juvenile cod habitat,” he said. “And the Feds just shut down cod for three months due to declining stocks, and halved the limit to five from 10, and now the cable is set to run right through the middle of it. That part is clear.”

Laura Dwyer, information coordinator for RI CRMC, told NTW, “Their presentations are their own, but any proposal to the CRMC will subsequently be reviewed by staff with their own set of questions that may require Mayflower to supply additional and more detailed information such that staff can weigh that information and proposed work satisfactorily against our regulations.”

Daniel Hubbard, director of Ex- ternal Affairs and general counsel for Mayflower Wind, told NTW, “We recognize that there are concerns about effects on marine life, both from those who recreate in the waters and others who earn their living there. To start, Mayflower Wind has a commitment to develop our project with zero harm. Further, the permitting process involves oversight by a number of federal, state and local agencies, whose job it is to make sure that our project and others like it do not have detrimental effects.”

His company conducts ongoing “extensive environmental surveys of our lease area and the cable routes, both offshore and onshore, to ensure we are keeping to our goal of a safe and sound project,” he said.

“We believe that offshore wind and its associated positive impacts on climate change are more beneficial to supporting both human and marine life.”

Newport’s Benjamin Riggs, a retired Navy captain whose second career included serving as CEO of several manufacturing companies, has sued other wind turbine projects. “I have been closely involved in a number of similar projects, such as Deepwater Block Island,” he said. “The ocean floor is where half of the planet’s accumulated carbon is sequestered. Digging it up will release significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, which will combine with oxygen to become carbon dioxide, along with methane, which are factors in creating global warming, and will be harmful to the fisheries we depend on.”

As for using Rhode Island waters and land for another state’s gain, Hubbard said, “Our project is also connecting to the New England grid, so its benefits will be not just by the residents of Massachusetts, but by all who live in New England.”

Riggs’ response: “The very carefully orchestrated presentation is just one part of an overall project, one which is designed to benefit only Massachusetts. And this is the same state that has blocked a badly needed natural gas pipeline to Rhode Island,” he said.

“There is a high likelihood of gearbox failures and fires on these wind turbines,” he added. “The environmental risks are unwarranted. The fact that wind power has been proven to have no net positive impact on reducing fossil fuel use or carbon emissions is a matter of public record in the U.S. and Europe. It is intermittent, not on demand, and not only causes more fossil fuel use and carbon emissions as a result, but can never replace a single conventional plant.

“The only thing green about this project is the money the developers are making from taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies.”

Source:  Watchdogs Question Mayflower Wind’s Sakonnet River Plan | By James Merolla | Newport This Week | August 25, 2022 | www.newportthisweek.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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