Representatives from Mayflower Wind have assured the Falmouth Beach Committee that ocean views will not be impacted by its offshore wind project.
“I can assure the residents of Falmouth that they will not see a wind turbine from the Mayflower Wind project,” Christopher Hardy, external affairs manager for Mayflower Wind, told the beach committee on Wednesday, November 18.
“There will be no visual sign of anything, other than the manhole covers behind the beach,” Mr. Hardy said.
When asked about the location of the substation the underground cables would connect to, Timothy Reiher of Mayflower Wind said that is to be determined. However, the substation would be installed inland, rather than in a beach neighborhood, he said, noting the company is considering the town’s yard waste and composting site at 565 Blacksmith Shop Road, East Falmouth, as a potential location.
On November 9 the select board granted three temporary right-to-entry agreements to Mayflower Wind, a joint venture between Shell and Ocean Winds. Mayflower Wind is developing a wind farm approximately 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, and is considering three landfall locations for its underground cables in Falmouth. The right-to-entry agreement gives the company 180 days to conduct exploratory borings at the Surf Drive Beach parking lot near Shore Street and the Falmouth Heights Beach parking lot near Worcester Avenue. The Mill Road parking lot, which already supports underground cables, is also being considered.
“We are planning these surveys within the next couple of months, to safely execute that work and better understand those potential sites for cable landfall,” Mr. Reiher said.
Beach committee member Joseph A. Strazzulla asked if the three locations were being equally considered. Mr. Hardy said that is the case, and the information gleaned from borings will help inform Mayflower Wind’s decision.
“Right now, we do not have a final preference,” Mr. Hardy said. “We are evaluating each location on its own.”
Each location has its advantages and disadvantages. There are existing cables installed at Surf Drive Beach, but the area is subject to inundation and at risk due to sea level rise. Though Falmouth Heights Beach benefits from a higher elevation, Mr. Hardy said that location is closer to residential neighborhoods.
“Ultimately, the planning and public review process, I think, will help us settle down on which is the preferred route to go,” he said.
Mr. Strazzulla asked how long construction would take once a site is selected. Mr. Hardy said the construction and installation process will take approximately two years. The portion of the work near the beach will only take a portion of that time, and will involve horizontal directional drilling. Construction done near the beach will be done during the fall or winter months to minimize traffic impacts, he said.
Mr. Hardy said construction is several years away. Due to an extended permitting process, which will include several opportunities for public comment, Mayflower Wind does not anticipate construction beginning until the mid-2020s.
Committee member Margaret Mitchell asked if Mayflower Wind had any prior experience with offshore wind projects. Noting the company is a joint venture between Shell and Ocean Winds, Mr. Hardy said Shell has been involved in offshore energy projects for more than 100 years. Ocean Winds developed the Borssele offshore wind project in the Netherlands and the Moray East offshore wind farm in Scotland. The Mayflower Wind project is the first of its kind in the United States.
“America has never built an offshore wind energy project, with the exception of Block Island, which is a small demonstration project, about six wind turbines off Rhode Island,” Mr. Hardy said. “Vineyard Wind is really set up to be the very first project. It was the first here awarded in Massachusetts, it is the furthest along in the permitting process and the closest to construction. This project is really setting a precedent for the rest of the industry.”
Though the beach committee took no vote on Wednesday night, individual members spoke in favor of the project.
“I’m quite happy with what they are doing,” committee member Daniel H. Shearer said. “We have other cables coming in from the Vineyard, which haven’t ever caused us trouble. I think this is a great idea, and I support it.”
“It sounds like a wonderful project,” committee member Jeffrey M. Billard said.
Acting beach superintendent Margaret Clayton said Mayflower Wind staff members had been communicative throughout the process thus far, including keeping the beach department informed when the company conducted near-shore shellfish and eelgrass surveys in August.
“I appreciate the level of study going into making the right decision to ensure the longevity of this project,” Ms. Clayton said.
Ms. Mitchell asked if Mayflower Wind would continue its public outreach campaign. Mr. Hardy said communication is ongoing. Noting the company has already met with the conservation commission and select board, he said company officials plan to meet with the coastal resiliency action committee as well.
“We are trying to talk to as many different people as we can,” Mr. Hardy said, adding the company would like to meet with neighborhood groups and associations in the potentially impacted areas.
Mr. Reiher said, post construction, any areas disturbed by the installation would be restored. He used the gravel parking lot at Mill Road, which was previously disturbed in 2010 for underground cables, to show the permanent surface impact.
“I mentioned the gravel parking lot at Mill Road, and those three manhole covers are the permanent surface impacts,” he said. “I like to say it was a gravel parking lot, and was returned to a gravel parking lot with a few manholes. We think this is really a good way to avoid any impact to the beach and any real permanent surface impact.”