Bay State Wind set up shop at the Loft in Oak Bluffs Wednesday night for a community outreach presentation on its activities. Executives from Eversource and Orsted, the two energy giants in equal partnership on Bay State Wind, mingled with Islanders and explained the wind energy company’s plans for waters off the Vineyard.
Part of the evening revolved around a speech by Orsted project development manager Ryan Chaytors. Dennis Galvam, Eversource manager for outreach planning and strategic projects, introduced Chaytors and primed the audience on the subject matter.
“We do understand that there’s another bid that’s going to be coming up in 2019 here in Massachusetts, and we just want to get out in front of you folks,” Galvam said. “We like to hear what your concerns are and what you have to say about the project — what your ideas are.”
Chaytors gave the audience a few highlights from Orsted’s résumé. “We built the first offshore wind project in the world. We built the largest offshore wind project in the world. And we own the most offshore wind projects in the world. So we’ve been doing this for a very long time. We have a lot of experience. We’ve had a lot of success,” he said.
He went on to say Bay State Wind wants to ensure what they construct “works for as many of our stakeholders as possible” and that “[w]e expect to coexist for a very long time.”
Bay State Wind lost out to Vineyard Wind in the first of what is expected to be a series of RFPs for wind turbine farms south of Martha’s Vineyard. Orsted still managed to get skin in the game by buying up the third competitor in the initial RFP, Deepwater Wind, for half a billion dollars. So absent whatever Bay State Wind develops, Orsted already has an active turbine operation near Block Island, previously developed by Deepwater Wind.
Chaytors said he expects Bay State Wind’s future wind farm project to incorporate 110 wind turbines, each generating eight to 15 megawatts and generating enough power in aggregate to power a million homes in New England. Chaytors said based on other projects Orsted has worked, he expects 1,000 construction jobs and 100 maintenance jobs to be created by the Bay State Wind Project. He said this would be in conjunction to a like number of jobs created by Vineyard Wind.
“We take our impacts on the environment very seriously,” he said. “We’re producing green energy, we know that, that’s great. We also know that in constructing this facility, there are going to be impacts to the environment.”
In order to minimize impacts, Bay State Wind wants feedback from “local stakeholders.” He offered an example of how the company changed course based on feedback from commercial fishermen. “We initially had a layout that looked more like a shotgun spread, where we had turbines everywhere. It was optimized for energy production alone,” he said. “We presented that to fishermen, and heard very clearly that that kind of layout was going to very problematic for them in terms of being able to fish within the project lease area. So we went back and we redefined the project as a whole, and created East-West rows of turbines that are spaced on average one nautical mile apart, to allow and to accommodate fishing traffic throughout the lease area.”
While Bay State Wind’s project will take years to get going, he said the time was ripe to “tailor” their plan based on feedback. To that end, a paper questionnaire was provided to audience members so they could mail in their thoughts.
Chaytors took a few questions from the audience. These ranged from how Bay State Wind’s proposal compares to the defunct Cape Wind project, to where the “export line” will come ashore. One woman who did not identify herself asked what the longevity of the wind farm was estimated to be.
“The design life of the project is about 25 years,” Chaytors said.
He went on to say the wind turbines would not necessarily be useless 25 years out. “The way I think about them is the way I think about a car,” he said. “You could still own the same car in 15 years. It’s probably going to have a new engine, new transmission, different brakes, but you still have your car. It’s going to have different components on it. The wind turbines are the same. You have a maintenance plan that you go forward with over 20, 25 years — that you’re going to replace certain parts, whether it be a blade, whether it be a generator, whether it be a gearbox, whatever it might be. You’re going to replace those as you go along.”
Chaytors did not specify how the turbines or their parts might be reused after 25 years.
At the end of the project’s life, Chaytors said Bay State Wind will have to decommission the turbines. Decommissioning involves taking the turbines down to below the sea bed; funds will be set aside to do so, he said. But he qualified this by adding that this will happen if it’s environmentally appropriate to do so.
“Because I will say we’ve already seen that these projects can create new habitats in the foundations,” he said, “so whether or not taking them out in 25 years is actually going to be good or bad — we would have a discussion on that.”