Letter: Towns' concerns ignore enormous benefits of offshore wind power

Posted 9/16/22

Your story in the Sept. 8, 2022 Shorelines about how “Little Compton fights to intervene in Mayflower proceedings” raises a number of issues that deserve comment. In essence the protests …

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Letter: Towns' concerns ignore enormous benefits of offshore wind power

Posted

Your story in the Sept. 8, 2022 Shorelines about how “Little Compton fights to intervene in Mayflower proceedings” raises a number of issues that deserve comment. In essence the protests coming from Little Compton and Middletown ignore the many benefits of the Mayflower Wind project for the community, the country, and the world, and instead focus on an array of hypothetical potential local harms that are unfounded.

The many offshore wind projects that are now being implemented or proposed along both coasts of this country offer by far the most effective and efficient way of generating power without producing planet-threatening emissions. European and Asian countries have been investing in such power sources for two decades while the US has sat on the sidelines. One benefit of being a late comer is that technologies have been greatly improved and costs of generation dramatically reduced. Offshore wind power is now the least costly source of power as well as least harmful in environmental terms.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management requires extremely detailed environmental impact statements for each of the offshore wind projects and they invite comments from the pubic as well as holding public hearings that give ample opportunity for concerned parties to express their concerns. Final approval of each project only comes after an exhaustive examination. Mayflower Wind’s proposal is currently under review and Vineyard Wind’s proposal completed the process and was approved last year.

In addition, these two companies have entered into agreements with highly qualified research groups to help guide them in the design, implementation, and operation of their projects so that they can be aware of the environmental effects of their activities and minimize the harm that might be done. The School of Marine Sciences and Technology at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, one of the outstanding marine research facilities in the country, is heavily engaged in the fisheries research and providing guidance to both these projects. The New England Aquarium is playing a similar role with respect to cetacean species such as Right Whales, and other groups are assessing these issues with relation to avian species.

In sum, these offshore wind projects will provide great benefits in the form of clean energy - to power our future electric cars and many other things – while also employing the best available science to minimize any adverse environmental effects.

The specific concern of the lawyer representing Little Compton and Middletown is that the power cable bringing the power from the wind turbines to the existing power grid in Somerset will be run up the Sakonnet River and might “adversely impact recreational fishing and shellfishing, mooring fields, paddle boards and kayak rentals, restaurants, wildlife refuges, bird sanctuaries, private and public beaches and more.”

How these impacts might occur was not described and was challenged by the Chairman of the hearing from the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB). The fact that the Mayflower Wind project is proposing to run its power cable up the middle of the river, far from either shore, six or more feet under the riverbed, and to install it within a short period of one or two months at times of the year when there is minimal activity on the river, would suggest that the dire concerns are unfounded.

The attorney representing the town of Portsmouth suggested that “another potential route avoids the Sakonnet River altogether by landing at Horseneck Beach in Westport, running up Route 88 and Route 6 before crossing over to Brayton Point.” He went on to say, “We certainly want the option to kick the tires on why the onshore Westport route is not preferable since it would not involve any underwater construction and would not involve any Rhode Island waters at all.”

The fallacies in these statements are breathtaking. To follow this route there would need to be still 20+ miles of underwater construction from the offshore turbines to Horseneck beach, the presumably underwater sections passing under the Westport River and the Sakonnet River to get from Fall River to the available power grid in Somerset. There would also be perhaps as much as 20 miles of underground placement of the cable that in some places would be running through or near densely populated and built up sections of both Westport and Fall River. The costs of following such a route would obviously be much greater and more disruptive and were therefore described as “impractical” by the Mayflower attorney.

Does the Portsmouth attorney suggest that by avoiding Rhode Island waters the people of Rhode Island should also forgo access to the low-cost power that will be generated by these facilities? President Biden’s recent visit to Somerset to celebrate these new offshore wind projects, when he landed at T. F. Green Airport as the nearest airport to the Somerset site, should serve to remind us all of how closely intertwined these communities are.

Fifteen years ago, influential people on Cape Cod blocked the offshore wind project that was proposed for Cape Cod Bay mainly because they thought it would impact their scenic view. That experience had a devastating effect on development of offshore wind facilities in this country for many years, but finally, after seeing the overwhelmingly favorable benefits of offshore wind installations in Europe and Asia, we are emerging from that unfortunate obstructionism. It is to be hoped that the people of the Sakonnet River area will not repeat that parochial mistake.

 

David C. Cole

Westport

 

 

 

 

2022 by East Bay Media Group

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.