Edgartown selectmen receive offshore wind update

Vineyard Power president says development of offshore wind farm will begin in September.

Edgartown selectmen voted unanimously to revoke a taxi driver's license after seven violations. — The Martha's Vineyard Times file photo

At their regular Monday meeting, the Edgartown board of selectmen listened to a presentation by Vineyard Power president Richard Andre about the next phase of the offshore wind project being developed in partnership with OffshoreMW.

Mr. Andre updated the selectmen on the development of an offshore wind farm in the Atlantic, 12 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. OffshoreMW won the rights to develop a wind farm on 166,000 acres of leased water through an auction process in January 2015.

Founded in 2009, Vineyard Power is an energy cooperative; its website states that their goal is to power “all of Martha’s Vineyard with renewable electricity.” Members pay a onetime membership fee, currently $200, which gives them the ability to be part of the decision-making process regarding the future of local sustainable energy. He said that after six years of planning and analysis, the partners are ready to survey the area.

“Developers met with the federal government in June; there’s a 60-day period before we can commence work, and that ends Sept. 1,” Mr. Andre told selectmen.

The surveys in federal waters will be looking at what’s at the bottom of the ocean, what’s on the surface, what types of mammals are there, and other relevant information.

“X-rays will go down into the surface of the seabed,” Mr. Andre said. “We’ll consult with the tribes — the Narragansett, Wampanoags of Gay Head and of Mashpee. They will be allowed on the vessels when we go out. They’ll obviously be interested in collection of paleo soils, any evidence of human habitation.” He explained that the vessels will have a marine archeologist and marine mammal observers present during the survey work.

In a telephone conversation with The Times on Tuesday, Mr. Andre said to avoid possible conflict with commercial fishermen, they will be consulted as well, and may also be invited to be onboard the vessels at times. He said they’ve consulted with the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust and with commercial fisherman affiliated with other ports in the area.

Mr. Andre said the surveys will be conducted in the northeast quadrant of the leased area. They’ll be drilling holes in waters up to approximately 50 meters, or 150 to 160 feet, deep, eventually placing moored buoys to monitor wind measurements.

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck asked how the partnership between Vineyard Power and OffshoreMV benefits the members of the co-op.

Mr. Andre replied that there currently is no financial benefit, but that the members could enter into a power purchase eventually. “It’s more expensive short-term, less expensive long-term,” he said.

“Presumably,” Mr. Smadbeck said in response. “There’s the unknown of the maintenance in that environment. I doubt it’s going to be as cheap as they’re stating.” Mr. Smadbeck also questioned putting so much energy and resources into something that isn’t readily benefitting members of the energy co-op.

Mr. Andre also said that there would be some 30-plus full-time Island jobs connected to the offshore wind project, notably with operations based at the Vineyard Haven Harbor.

“The technology has to be compatible with the natural environment,” Mr. Smadbeck said.

On that note, Mr. Andre invited all the selectmen to the Electrical Vehicle Plug-In Day at Cronig’s Market in Vineyard Haven on Saturday from 9 am to 12:30 pm.

“You can test-drive an electric vehicle,” he told the selectmen. “You know, Coca-Cola bought an electric delivery truck. We’ll have information about incentives and tax breaks when you purchase an electric vehicle.”

In other business, town administrator Pam Dolby brought forward a request from Anthony Esposito to refer the turf project for the high school to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for review.

“I think they need to take it up with the school committee again,” selectman Margaret Serpa said.

“They know more about it than we do,” Mr. Donaroma added.

Ms. Dolby also suggested the selectmen review the recommendations that are made during tree hearings, saying that recently, in only one of five instances have the homeowners “done what they’re supposed to do.” Ms. Serpa said she’d like to send the homeowners letters and set up a fine if they don’t follow through with the selectmen’s decisions. Ms. Dolby said she would research whether or not the town could impose such a fine.