Vineyard towns support offshore energy zone proposal
The Edgartown selectmen have indicated enthusiastic support of an offshore renewable energy zone between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, which is proposed in a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt and has been endorsed by the Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission.
The proposed zone is about 30 square miles in federal waters, three miles south of Tuckernuck Island off Nantucket, or about 11 miles southeast of Wasque Point. The Edgartown selectmen said they are interested in seeing the area enlarged so that it extends to waters off the south shore of Edgartown.
"We recognize that this involves developing an economically feasible plan for 2,000 megawatts of wind, wave and perhaps even tidal power," the selectmen's letter said. "We are well aware of the tidal energy potential available in Muskeget channel and recommend that attention should be given to expanding this zone into this area of state waters if possible."
The selectmen also expressed their enthusiasm for the town of Hull's planned offshore wind farm, the expanded use of community-based public utilities and moving Edgartown and the Vineyard closer to energy independence.
Selectman Art Smadbeck, who strongly supports the legislation, was not available for further comment this week, but his enthusiasm for the project has already spread to Chilmark where selectman Warren Doty brought up the proposal during last week's selectmen's meeting. Mr. Doty said he would like to find out how Chilmark could participate in the project. His colleagues, Frank Fenner and Riggs Parker, agreed that it is an idea worth pursuing.
The legislation that Mr. Delahunt co-sponsored is called the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act.
In addition to creating the offshore energy zone, it would provide loans and tax credits to companies for the development of new technologies. It would also pump $50 million a year for 10 years into marine-energy research, according to a press release from Mr. Delahunt's office said.
Mr. Delahunt recently led a delegation to Germany to learn about the efforts of European governments to develop offshore renewable energy. The Europeans are designating offshore energy zones as "preferred areas."
Mr. Delahunt also cited studies by the Electric Power Research Institute that identified wave and tidal energy as having potential off the coast of Massachusetts. He is calling on government officials to designate specific areas off the coast as "ocean renewable energy development zones."
"As we change our energy sources from carbon-based fuels to renewable sources, ocean power will be a small but important part of our clean-energy mix," Mr. Delahunt said in the press release. "We need to stimulate investment in these technologies while at the same time designate specific areas of our ocean to develop this technology."
The bill, authored by Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington, is expected to reach the House floor by July, Mr. Delahunt's spokesman Mark Forest said Tuesday. The offshore energy zones are now in the development stage, and the legislators want to direct them to where there is local interest and local support, Mr. Forest said. "Our role is to help communities," he said.
The Hull project has generated a lot of interest because of its potential to meet almost all of the electricity the town needs. Currently it generates enough power with two land-based wind turbines to keep its electricity costs below those of surrounding communities, Mr. Forest said. Hull is serving as a federal model for how communities can become energy independent. Mr. Forest believes the Vineyard can do the same.
"The Island is well-positioned to replicate Hull," he said.