Editorial : A tough issue for the MVC and wind turbine fanciers
The dearth of testimony presented to members of the Martha's Vineyard Commission on its 155-page draft wind energy plan may be symptomatic of waning enthusiasm for wind turbine installations on or near residential property.
The Vineyard already has a designated Island-wide district of critical planning concern (DCPC) for any wind energy development on land — although Edgartown is excepted. There is also a regulatory structure for wind energy installations in the Island's nearby waters.
So, review of such installations is assured, but the protocol for such review is the object of the plan now being considered.
As Times writer Janet Hefler reported [Martha's Vineyard Commission concludes wind energy plan hearing, October 11, MV Times], "The draft plan deals with both land-based and offshore wind energy facilities, including wind turbines, ancillary equipment, access roads, and transmission lines. It addresses a wide range of topics, such as wind resources, scenic and cultural impacts, noise, recreational activities, natural resources, construction, operation and decommissioning. The plan also discusses the impact of wind turbines and proposes policies for siting decisions. It does not take a position on whether wind energy is good or bad, or on Federal policy."
This is a complicated and necessary review regimen. And, it may very well need to become more complicated to properly consider the impacts any such development may have on so many Vineyard stakeholders. The complexity and expense of this review, together with the likelihood that the state and federal subsidies that support these wind energy structures are politically and financially imperiled, means that the decisions that result must be thoughtfully taken, both to protect neighbors from developments that may fail financially in the protean and volatile energy market and the applicants who, if successful, may find themselves ultimately disadvantaged, as economics and neighborhood acceptance change.
There is a suggestion of this in Ms. Hefler's report of hearing testimony by Gary Harcourt, co-owner of Great Rock Wind Power. "He said one of his concerns is the economic impact of the energy plan's regulations on smaller wind turbine projects, which the industry defines as producing less than 100 kilo-watts of power.
"The impact that these regulations have on smaller turbines is so great that it basically negates any potential value gained, monetary value, if a town or someone were to want to put one up," he said. "There is no way that having a sound study, and a flicker study, and all the studies that are required in this document for a small turbine fifty kilo-watts or less is feasible."
Balancing the interests of Vineyard residential property owners against those devoted to the establishment of wind energy installations at their homes, businesses, and farms is a tall order for the MVC. It is especially so in the volatile energy marketplace and the uncertain political context that energy producers navigate.