When representatives from Mayflower Wind came to Falmouth last fall to ask permission to conduct exploratory borings in advance of building a substation here, there was some concern among residents that the company would take away beach or spoil water views. The representatives assured the beach committee and the select board that nothing of the sort would happen. There would be nothing more to see than manhole coverings behind the beach.
There is no reason to believe otherwise; Eversource installed a new conduit to the island from the Mill Road Parking lot at Surf Drive, and manhole coverings are what you see. Mayflower Wind will be conducting a similar operation, wherever it ends up being.
But it is small and parochial thinking to be overly concerned about the appearance of Mayflower Wind’s substation. Even if it were to result in losing a patch of beach—it won’t—or a portion of a parking lot, it is important to see the big picture and the benefits of offshore wind.
Mayflower Wind is moving forward with an array of turbines some 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. It is expected to be operating by 2025.
And that power will represent savings to Massachusetts residents. Included in the economic stimulus package approved by Congress in December is a tax credit that will allow Mayflower Wind to sell electricity at $.08 per kilowatt-hour. The state average in 2019, according to State House News Service, was about $.18 per kilowatt-hour.
In addition to clean energy and a small decrease in energy costs, the company has committed to giving millions of dollars for marine science and fisheries research, port improvements and a low-income electrification program, according to State House News Service.
In the meantime Vineyard Wind is in the permitting process to build about 100 turbines, with an 800-megawatt wind farm some 15 miles south of the island. The company says it will be operational in 2023, although that might be optimistic.
It would be the first of a two-phase development. Together the wind farms may produce as much as 12 percent of the state’s electricity. And they will create thousands of jobs.
These two companies are just the start of offshore wind. They are paving the way, and more will certainly follow.
These developments do not necessarily mean everyone wins. Fishermen are concerned about the impact they will have on their livelihoods. Some are concerned about the environmental impact of laying cable from the windfarms to shore.
But it will be important to keep an eye on the big picture. The benefits will outweigh the negatives, probably by a very large margin.