Infrastructure Committee: Vineyard Wind project update

At the Infrastructure Committee’s April meeting, Nate Mayo gave an update on the Vineyard Wind project. He had first come to the Infrastructure meeting when he presented Vineyard Wind’s bid for the project south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket last year.

Vineyard Wind was selected for that first offshore wind contract through a competitive bidding process. Now, State Environmental Impact Report Certification starts local and regional permitting. The project is an 800 MW wind farm that could power 400,000 homes, 14.5 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Nate said they are using the largest turbines commercially available, reducing the footprint and marine impact. The export cable is a major portion of the project, and must go through state and local permitting. Buried 6 to 8 feet underground for the entire length, it will be invisible even at landfall. Onshore transmission is just east of Craigville beach, at which point it is very similar to any other infrastructure project. Cables will run to a substation in Independence Park. Nate said Vineyard Wind worked closely with the town of Barnstable, working above and beyond what is required by law to protect the sole source aquifer and address concerns.

Some of the project features he mentioned were:

  • Increased local revenue: $16M in supplemented payments, and property tax revenue
  • Offshore Wind Accelerator Program: There is a $10M infrastructure fund, and a dedicated $2M to Windward Workforce (increased educational systems to cultivate a local workforce)
  • Marine Mammal Innovation Fund: $3M to develop protection for marine species and push forward technologies that are in development
  • Climate Change Benefits: There’s an estimated 1.6M tons of CO2 offset per year
  • Electricity Costs: They project a modest savings to ratepayers
  • Improved Grid Reliability: There’s an injection of a substantial amount of energy at the edge of the grid. Bid process required a storage component. They are doing micro-grid and emergency storage in partner communities.

Committee members asked about the life of the project, its capacity, and potential sound transmission. Nate said it is a 20 year contract, with an expected project life of 25 years. They were required to post a bond that covers full decommission of the project, as a safety valve. Each cable can technically carry the entire capacity, but there are two cables for redundancy (all infrastructure is sized according to project and no more). There is no expectation of sound reaching land.

Collaborative Planning
Vineyard Wind has had extensive consultations and outreach to advocacy groups, individual stakeholders, elected officials and environmental non-governmental organizations. They have been endorsed by Cape, State, and National groups. Concerns addressed include parameters and design standards for substation containment, with a $16M commitment to mitigation payments. They have also agreed that no work will be done in the summer, especially near the beach.

In response to a concern raised about bird strikes, Nate stated that Vineyard Wind has met with bird conservation groups. Nate said studies in Europe indicate that avoidance strategies are more effective than was assumed. They have good information on migration patterns from aerial and boat based surveys — what species are moving through, and at what altitude. They are also avoiding feeding areas.

For Right Whale Protection, they have seasonal pile driving restrictions in place, with enhanced monitoring, including visual, acoustic, and shoulder season clearance zones. They will be using noise attenuation technology to reduce marine noise, and have put in place vessel speed restrictions. They hope this project sets the stage for other projects to collaborate with the marine community.

They expect onshore construction in the fall of 2019, with offshore construction following in the spring of 2020. They expect to be operation in the fall of 2021.

Committee members asked if the project would be helping the Cape with the grid. Nate said there will be an injection of energy into the edge of the grid, but no extra infrastructure will be built.

The permitting process is complex, driven by the energy challenge in New England. The wind south of the Islands is arguably the best wind resource in the world, and as Vineyard Wind works with the regulators, they are refining their process.

Nate says this project is “the first of many, but only if we do it right. So many stakeholders have resulted in a better project.”

Further discussion is planned for the May Infrastructure Committee meeting.

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