Stormy argument halts Vineyard Wind hearing

Project’s public hearing with the MVC gets pushed to next month.

41
Richard Andre of Vineyard Power talks to MVC commissioners. Vineyard Wind’s public hearing at the MVC Thursday ended abruptly after a heated exchange from a member of the public and the commission. — Brian Dowd

A public hearing for Vineyard Wind’s proposed undersea cables that would run through Edgartown waters was cut off abruptly after several heated exchanges at a Martha’s Vineyard Commission meeting Thursday night.

Vineyard Wind plans to build an 84-turbine, 800-megawatt wind farm 14 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, but representatives from Vineyard Wind and Richard Andre, president of Vineyard Power, a Vineyard green energy company affiliated with Vineyard Wind, went before the commission seeking approval to place two undersea cables approximately 1.2 miles from the Edgartown shoreline, east of Chappaquiddick. Discussion and planning for the project, which would mark the country’s first large-scale offshore wind farm, has been extensive, but Thursday’s public hearing was held specifically to discuss the undersea cables that would send electricity from the wind turbines to a power station in Barnstable.

While discussion was supposed to be held strictly to cable talk, presenters and members of the public touched on climate change, Island housing, the benefits of wind turbines, and infrasound.

During Andre’s introduction of the project, he spoke about the environmental need for the commission to approve the cable project. “The planet is warming up at a rapid, rapid pace, and we as an Island community have a lot to lose, let alone the effects on mankind,” Andre said.

The only part of the Vineyard Wind project under the commission’s review is the cable, which would be 12.4 to 13.4 miles in length, running north to south. Vineyard Wind is permitting a 2,600- to 3,300-foot corridor in the water. There are two routes the cable may go.

The two 220-kilowatt export cables are tri-core, made of aluminum or copper. A highly engineered solid plastic insulation is used in lieu of fluid, to minimize chances of a leak. The cable will be buried under the seafloor.

“If it breaks, what happens underwater? Is it like throwing a toaster in a bathtub?” commissioner Clarence “Trip” Barnes asked.

Vineyard Wind vice president of permitting affairs Rachel Pachter said every inch of the project is closely monitored, and it all gets shut down if a part of the cable is inactive. The project calls for two cables in case one needs to be shut down.

The installation of the cables will begin with a survey and grappling hook run to make sure the path is clear of fishing gear and consistent with Vineyard Wind’s studies of the area.

Kate McEneaney, a senior consultant with Epsilon Associates working with Vineyard Wind, said a sled supported by a barge will be plowing a one-meter-wide trench to lay the cables and then bury them. The cable installation is done slowly. The barge moves at less than 1 knot. The process will take two to three weeks to traverse the portion along Edgartown waters.

The two cable laying options along Muskeget Channel designed to have the least amount of impact on the seafloor habitat. — Courtesy Vineyard Wind

Once the cable is installed, a survey will determine if the entire length is buried. Each cable should take two weeks to install, and it’s projected be done in the spring of 2021.

One of the primary concerns about the project is its effects on the North Atlantic right whale, an endangered species. Vineyard Wind is using technology to monitor and listen for whale activity, and will halt installation if whales are detected nearby.

While several members of the public gave their support for the project — echoing sentiments from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hearing last week — Helen Parker, a clinical psychologist, was the lone dissenter. Parker said she is an international expert on the human health impact of infrasound coming from large wind turbines.

Before Parker began her presentation, commissioner Richard Toole, who led the hearing and is a member of Vineyard Power, told her she had seven minutes to present her information and that information should be submitted beforehand. Toole reiterated that the hearing was strictly about the cables — not the wind farm.

Parker said wind turbines can emit Infrasound, which is sound below the level of human hearing, and that it can be hazardous to humans. “Infrasound is real. Its impact on human health has been known and documented, and then hidden for over 30 years,” Parker said.

Several commissioners were unperturbed by Parker, and said she was veering off-topic. “The Martha’s Vineyard Commission doesn’t have jurisdiction over the wind farm; that’s up to the federal government,” Toole said.

“Richard, you have jurisdiction over the cable … please give me seven minutes,” Parker said.

“You’re not talking about the cable,” Toole responded. “I’ve heard you talk about the noise from the wind turbines, which you say is going to be a problem.”

Arguments ensued between Parker and Toole.

“This is inappropriate. This [public hearing] is not about the wind farm, it’s about the cable,” Toole said.

Toole ignored Parker, and as she continued speaking about the turbines, asked if someone else from the public wanted to speak.

Parker asked for Barnes and commissioner Christina Brown to help her continue her presentation, but she was cut off by another person.

Ron Dagostino, a director at Vineyard Power, spoke over Parker, and voiced his support for the project. “I very much support this project. I hope you will too,” he said.

“Richard, can I ask my Chilmark person to stand up for me and allow me to speak?” Parker said, interrupting Dagostino.

Chairman Douglas Sederholm asked Parker to submit her testimony and graphics to the commission so they could be on record.

Parker called the auctioned-off square miles where the turbines are proposed to be built “ground zero,” and continued to speak before Toole hit the gavel and said the hearing was over.

Commissioners continued the hearing to March 21.

In other business, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) also had a public hearing about its three-phase master plan for its Oak Bluffs campus off Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road.

Commissioners opened the hearing at their last meeting in January, but continued it so South Mountain Co. architects could incorporate the commission’s suggestions into their design plan. South Mountain has also been in communication with Island Elderly Housing (IEH).

Some of the key changes were to traffic mitigation. South Mountain will make a one-way exit on a curb closest to Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road, add stop signs at exits, 20 mph signs on the road, and a list of other additions. They also removed a few parking spaces, and an egress South Mountain was able to get under the commission’s nitrogen-loading limit.

Despite these changes, IEH wants a traffic study done by the commission on Village Road.

Sederholm said he didn’t think a traffic study was necessarily the answer, but felt the public hearing needed to continue so South Mountain, IEH, and MVC staff could work to address more of the design’s traffic issues. “I want to get this thing on the road, but this is not ready,” Sederholm said.

The hearing was continued to March 7, but may be pushed to March 21.

The Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) got the green light to move ahead with its plans to install solar canopies at its homebase in the Airport Business Park. The canopies will cover existing parking spots for VTA buses and regular staff parking, with the aim of using solar energy to charge their electric buses.

Currently, the VTA has six fully electric buses running routes, and plans to convert its entire 32-bus fleet to electric in the next five years.

The commission closed out the evening by going into a rare executive session. The executive session was to “discuss possible litigation by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission against the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) regarding a development located in Aquinnah, Massachusetts. Specifically the tribe’s plan and activities to build a Class II gaming facility,” according to Sederholm.

Aquinnah selectmen sent the commission a letter last month asking the regional planning agency to review the tribe’s plans to build a gaming facility. Aquinnah believes the commission has jurisdiction over the property — the tribe says it does not.

At their last meeting, commissioners said they received the letter, but Aquinnah would have to submit a formal request.

41 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciate the coverage of last night’s meeting but regret that the author missed reporting my primary point: that this initial Vineyard Wind 800MW installation, covering 252 square miles, would dwarf the current WORLD’S largest offshore wind installation, the “Walney Extension,” which is contained within 56 square miles in the Irish Sea.

    While I have no doubt that the Vineyard Wind staff are experts in their field, they have no experience in running undersea cable from an 800MW offshore wind installation. No one does.

    Jurisdiction over the threat of “unknowns related to the potential effects of 220 kilo-volts of electricity coursing beneath the ocean floor” 1.2 miles from Chappy is serious business for our Commissioners and should be rigorously evaluated in the context of project pros and cons.

    Infrasound is serious business. It makes people sick. Most vulnerable are children, elders, and those who are especially reactive to sensation – those with autism, a prior PTSD, abuse victims, …and many of us whose souls are drawn to the Vineyard quiet.

    The Vestas CEO has acknowledged that, ‘turbines send out ILFN; the bigger they are the more intense the emissions.’ It’s bad enough that the Israeli army has used low-frequency sound pulses as high-tech crowd control for decades. I reported how it travels for miles: infrasound was measured coming across the LAND 8 miles, 33 and 56 miles distant from a 96MW turbine array in central New Mexico.

    If the nearby 1,400 square miles of total auctioned ocean becomes filled with its planned 7000MW array, we’ll indeed be at ground zero of some very bad vibes.

    • No one has experience running submarine power cables a hefty 1.2 miles. Maybe we should ask the engineers who did the NorNed cable which runs the 360 miles between Feda in Norway and Eemshaven in the Netherlands.

      What the hey, let’s look up Walney Extension wind farms. 20 miles off-shore. As for the surface area of the , spreading the turbines over a greater area improves their efficiency.

      As for claims against infrasound, I could find the urban legend stuff; please cite your sources.

      • It’s true that the extensive data on the health impacts of infrasound from IWTs doesn’t float up to pages 1 or 2 with an internet search. http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0Ak2bgr7C0nhPdGR3S1lEekU3T3p4ZDhUNDdRV2Y2ZkE&font=Bevan-PotanoSans&maptype=toner&lang=en&height=650 is a good one to skim, particularly as it details the tennis match between the NASA, DOE, DOD and the BigWind industry from the get-go in 1979. Presents a ‘time line’ showing the history of Wind Turbine Noise problems and BigWind’s (quite successful) maneuvering to circumvent the truth. Each entry provides documentation.
        Another which cites many of my sources, along with more recent investigations into the effects of infrasound on weakening cardiac tissue, for example, is the relatively new documentary film “Infrasound caused by Industrial Wind Turbines” about wind energy and infrasound by the science programme “planet e.” of the second German television ZDF — November 4, 2018. Wishing for you the best of good health now and always.

    • I’d like to say that there are numerous experienced and qualified operators capable of laying a 220kV cable. Our island is powered by a few undersea cables (upwards of 150kV I believe) Who do you think laid those cables? Also, The Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm is 660MW and is not exactly “dwarfed” by the proposed capacity of the Vineyard Wind leases (800MW). The ILFN that turbines produce are noise, quite different then focused pulses and beams of LF weapons. Can you site any resources that characterize the release of low frequency noises from turbines as harmful in any way?

      • NIEHS: https://docs.wind-watch.org/Infrasound-toxicology-summary.pdf is a good start. “The primary effect of infrasound in humans appears to be annoyance .” Or ask some residents of Falmouth recently in the news. The issue as I see it is whether the infrasound SPL (intensity) is great enough to cause harm – in many cases much worse than annoyance – when the proposed turbines are 14 mi. off the coast. There are environmental multipliers (see Karman vortex street), so getting it wrong will get us added infamy as the “Vineyard Hum.” (thehum.info)

        • Infrasound requires air pressure to travel, the concern is air pressure against the inner ear. Just like any other sound wave, it cannot travel through a vacuum. Explain how air conditioner fans in nearby homes and businesses do not make violently ill everyone in a quarter mile radius.

        • ed wkr–“sick building syndrome” is associated with chemical contamination or mold issues about 99% of the time. I don’t know why you ask this question– the format here is not clear who is responding to whom. it would help clarify if you started with who you are responding to .
          Thanks

        • Thanks. Right there in the summery of findings of the document you linked to:
          “Most studies reported some effects attributed to infrasound exposure, though many studies also reported no observable effects. Among the more consistent findings in humans were changes in blood pressure, respiratory rate, and balance. These effects occurred after exposures to infrasound at levels generally above 110 dB. Physical damage to the ear or some loss of hearing has been found in humans and/or animals at levels above 140 dB. ”

          Those are very loud decibel exposures in a laboratory. These turbines are going to be 14 miles out. Maybe someone should set up a microphone before the turbines go online and measure the difference in sound when they do go online. I’d be fascinated at the results.

          Anyways, I’ve stood next to the Shiloh Windfield (500MW) in Northern California and barely noticed any sort of auditory anomalies and I couldn’t hear anything particular driving up to it either. The wind itself is noisy enough.

      • Thanks for your query, Vanadium. There are innumerable. http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0Ak2bgr7C0nhPdGR3S1lEekU3T3p4ZDhUNDdRV2Y2ZkE&font=Bevan-PotanoSans&maptype=toner&lang=en&height=650 is a good one to skim, particularly as it details the tennis match between the NASA, DOE, DOD and the BigWind industry from the get-go in 1979. Presents a ‘time line’ showing the history of Wind Turbine Noise problems. Each entry provides documentation.

        • And when automobiles were invented, opponents claimed they would spook horses. Okay, that’s comparable; wind turbines spook the two-legged version of horses.

        • Windfarms have been installed in-mass in the US since the 80’s. There is not a plurality of complaints that would justify the cancellation of any new windfarm developments. There are a few turbines here and there that were installed too close to people and those turbine were rightly shut down do to the effects related to their operation, but there is no systemic complaints of exposure to the environmental effects of wind turbines that would warrant the halting of the Vineyard Wind Field.

    • “It’s bad enough that the Israeli army has used low-frequency sound pulses as high-tech crowd control for decades.” (I can see the internet source from where, word for word, this was cut-and-pasted, https://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/03/12/psychologist-claims-wind-industry-dangerous-to-human-health-pens-epic-takedown-of-green-energy.) You have plagiarized a pro-Trump, anti-environment, anti-climate change, pro-fossil fuel website. Not exactly scientific, “The wind industry has long been promoted as a key part of Democrats’ plan to replace traditional energy sources, such as oil and natural gas, with renewable energy.” (Sourced from the same article.) This is fear-mongering politics in lieu of facts. On the very same web page, one can find the article entitled, “Al Gore blames record U.S. cold on climate change — then meteorologist drops a truth bomb on him .” Politics in lieu of facts.

  2. How does Trip Barnes think our electricity gets here now? This guy is making decisions for the island? Yeesh.

  3. “Stormy argument halts Vineyard Wind hearing.” ???
    Since when did the persons in President Trumps extra-marital affairs begin giving testimony to our green energy hearings?

  4. ms Parker says “Infrasound is real. Its impact on human health has been known and documented and then hidden for over 30 years,” What does she mean by “hidden “?
    And trip wonders if the cable breaks that the ocean will become electrified, or something ?
    Such is the logic of the opposition..

  5. I am vehemently opposed to these turbines so close to our precious island. They are ugly and no one knows exactly what it will do to our health being so close to them.

      • b4jaws– let’s be real here– proud american is not going to be “underwater in a few years” . None of us are– the climate deniers love it when someone makes a comment like that– they mock the science, and will use a comment like yours a few years from now as “proof” there is no climate change and sea level is not rising… only “alarmist” rhetoric. Stick to the facts. Sea level will be up about an inch at most “in a few years” — that is a real concern, with real consequences — but you leave yourself open to justifiable mockery when you make this kind of prediction .

  6. B4jaws. If I’m under water, you will be too, what’s your point? Do you troll the comments for my name? I’m still a proud American and I can have an opinion, even if it’s different than yours.

  7. I read this article and was more than amazed at how a Massachusetts resident was treated and a “local” at that .. was it the “commission” did not want to deal with a subject they were not really familiar with, lost control of the hearing, or did not want to have questions about the subject brought to the public? WHATEVER, there is so much out there about the negative impacts of the industrial wind turbine agenda both on and off shore around the globe that Massachusetts should have concerns about this very costly experiment. Those who say it must be done now to stop climate change had better rethink the urgency; industrial wind farms are not going to stop the inevitable. So, before these monstrosities “hit the water” there is time to rethink the inherent harms to humans, wildlife, the environment, the economy. The concerns about industrial wind turbines started early on in the 1980’s; we knew about the negatives; but, they were conveniently “buried” while the goring and greenwashing occurred and the industrial wind turbine agenda was peddled around the world. Recent noise studies show that low frequency noise is found miles beyond what was originally thought; and, it is well known that noise travels loudly across the water and beneath the sea there are vibrations caused by noise; one minor annoyance (wink, wink) the red lights flashing in the night. Look to Europe’s industrial wind turbine realities both onshore and offshore .. the U.S. is the wind industry’s last frontier .. we are the last of the
    experiment; would it not be better to rethink the project. Have you ever asked your wind turbine supporting Energy-Politicians just what the benefits of the wind turbine is and who benefits from them? Do. It is not a question they have ever answered. They always speak about the vision and repeat the promises of the developer and the industry; but, they don’t give answers that satisfy concerns.

    The time line referred to here is FACT.

    • How far is sound expected to carry over water? Ask a sailor listening for a bell or horn warn them away from rocks in a fog.

      Wind turbines and other alternate energy sources benefit all, even those using fossil fuels. The use of alternate energy reduces the demand on fossil fuel power plants. That, besides reducing the chance of brown outs, keeps down the price of fossil fuel. As for some claiming we’ll never run out of fossil fuel, the planet is not of limitless mass. It would be better if we have replacements up and running.

      Also, please don’t reference the links as proof as they do not have proper citation to pass review.

        • I was hoping your comments would be made with an acknowledgement of the laws of nature and physics. It was a dream.

          • When something gets harder and more difficult to find, we give up finally and look for other alternatives that are easier to find. New technology will offer us other alternatives and we will choose those. Hence fossil fuels will stay in the ground and we will not run out of them. It has nothing to do with physics and nature. It is all about alternatives that make us look elsewhere.

          • @Andrew : The day we need alternatives, would you rather we already have the technology and manufacturing refined and running or start on that day at the bottom of our learning curve?

    • The need for an alternative to carbon emissions trumps your need for high coastal real estate prices. The market will adapt, your bungalow resale value will be fine.

    • Mariej ms Parker was off topic, and refused to abide by the wishes of the people running the meeting.
      It seems to me she was treated with much more respect than she was showing. Had it been a trump rally, she would have been physically removed.

  8. New Englander . You said we will run out. I said we will not and made the argument. Can you not acknowledge instead of run on sentences?

    • @Andrew, the Earth is of limited mass. Therefore, the supply of fossil fuel must be finite. You made the concession not all fossil fuel will be accessible. Whoopee. I question why you keep presenting as not wanting us to be ready for when fossil fuel can no longer be extracted in sufficient quantities to be cost efficient.

      I’ve a suggestion. Promise us you’ll never wander from fossil fuel. No charging station for your car, no solar panels on your roof. You can live in your own Mad Max post-apocalyptic world, always looking for affordable fuel.

      • Fossil fuel will be accessible. We simply won’t bother. I will not leave fossil fuels until more cost effective solutions arise. I will not destroy economic value. The invisible hand of capitalism will have us ready but no forcing due to misdirected gloom and doom. You can have the last word and I promise I won’t get an electric car or solar panels.

Comments are closed.

Previous articleThe change makers
Next articleMVYouth announces $500,000 in grants for Camp Jabberwocky and Boys & Girls Club