New wind energy legislation poses questions for local planners
As Island towns refine and strengthen their regulatory authority over local wind turbine projects, the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC), as the Island's comprehensive land use planning agency, is considering the extent of its role in the process.
MVC executive director Mark London said this week that the commission is closely watching two key pieces of state legislation that will influence development of wind power on land and sea.
On July 1, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary Ian Bowles released a draft comprehensive ocean management plan for public comment and review. The draft plan would allow for small wind farms of 10 or fewer turbines off the immediate Vineyard coast and larger wind farms to be developed south and west of Nomans Land and west of Cuttyhunk. The plan also will extend the regulatory authority of the MVC to certain projects alongshore.
Mr. London said that in looking at the plan, he understands that in addition to the multi-use, "community wind" areas for small wind farms, there will be two large commercial areas.
"The community wind would have to be endorsed by the local board of selectmen, and it's up to the regional planning agency to allocate where those 10 turbines would be and who gets the allocation of the turbines," Mr. London said. "So, that would preserve a fair degree of local control over these community projects."
For the commercial areas, however, although subject to town and MVC review, the ultimate deciding authority will be the state's Energy Facilities Siting Board.
"My understanding is they could override any decision, like any conditions or any denials, by either the town board or the MVC," Mr. London said. "I'm going to read the plan to make sure I understand all of it, as we all should."
One of his questions is whether a small commercial project, meaning 10 or fewer turbines, would be allowed in a commercial area.
"If the Ocean Management Plan gets adopted as it is, we could anticipate that there would be two commercial projects, and we could anticipate that there could be several community projects, and so it would seem advantageous to have the towns and MVC work together on coordinating on how we will deal with those," Mr. London said.
The MVC plans to provide comment on the draft ocean management plan for public hearings that will take place after Labor Day, Mr. London said. "We'll probably be discussing with other regional planning agencies and Island entities about whether to prepare a joint response or individual ones.