More support for Vineyard Wind at MVC

Vineyard Wind public hearing closes, written record stays open for another week.


The public hearing for Vineyard Wind’s proposed undersea cables continued at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission meeting Thursday night with overwhelming support for the project from students, business owners, homeowners, and engineers.

The only part of the Vineyard Wind project under the commission’s jurisdiction is a portion of the undersea cable that will run through Edgartown waters. The entire cable, which will connect electricity from the proposed wind turbines to a power station in Barnstable, would be 12.4 to 13.4 miles long, running north–south. Vineyard Wind is permitting a 2,600- to 3,300-foot corridor in the water, with two potential routes the cable could go.

In response to several heated exchanges concerning the project at the commission’s Feb. 21 meeting, Commissioner Richard Toole, who is leading the hearings, apologized, saying the last meeting “didn’t go very well.”

To better facilitate hearings, Toole described the rules that will be read before all public hearings going forward. The rules ask speakers at public hearings to keep comments relative to the project application being evaluated, and give the speaker five minutes to give their testimony unless the chairman extends the time. Commissioners then put a five-minute timer on the meeting room television screen.

Eighth grader Jocelyn Baliunas gave the first statement of the night in support of Vineyard Wind. Jocelyn was accompanied by her teacher Leah Dorr while she gave her testimony. “The Vineyard Wind project will be beneficial to this Island, with jobs and clean energy for hundreds and thousands of homes. The world is changing, and we need to change with it by taking a step toward cleaner and renewable energy.”

Julius Lowe, who owns an HVAC company on the Island, was another supporter of the project. “We need a project like this to wake people up to the reality that we need to change the way we think about our energy, where we get it, and the kind of projects we want to push forward with in order to inspire people to think outside the box we have created for ourselves. For too long we have externalized the cost of our lifestyles. We’ve relied on cheap energy and pushed that cost on the environment, on the natural world in general, animals, plants, and in extension future generations,” Lowe said. “This cable needs to happen.”

Zoe Turcotte and Timothy Penicaud, Island teachers who own a home near Wasque Reservation on Chappaquiddick, said their property looks out over the water where the cables will be placed.

“I can’t wait, and I really, really hope we get this done, and I look forward to us being a model for the entire United States,” Turcotte said.

“So it definitely can be in our backyard, even though it might change some view — not really, it’s a cable,” Penicaud added.

John Packer brought a six-inch-diameter section of cable that is used to connect the Island to the mainland. Vineyard Wind is proposing two 220-kilowatt tri-core export cables made of aluminum or copper. A highly engineered solid plastic insulation is used in lieu of fluid to minimize chances of a leak, and the cables will be buried under the seafloor. The cables would be 10 inches in diameter.

John Keene of Chilmark handed a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) report to the commission on the potential effects cables have on migratory patterns of native fish species. Keene said he was concerned fishing would be negatively affected. The commission said they would add it to their review.

At the commission’s Feb. 21 meeting, the hearing was cut off after several heated exchanges between Toole and Helen Parker, a Chilmark resident who opposes the project.

Parker opposes the project on grounds that the turbines will have a detrimental effect on the health of Island residents from infrasound, which is sound below the level of human hearing.

At Thursday’s meeting, Parker, who was given 15 minutes of testimony because her husband and another member of the public offered their time for her to speak, focused on the economics behind a large-scale wind farm project.

“Wind is purely additive, redundant, and counterproductive to our aims. It increases fossil fuel usage, it increases CO2,” Parker said. “The worst, scariest aspect of this proposal is an enduring blackout.”

Members of the public who support the project cautioned the commission against false information.

Jonah Maidoff, a teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School and supporter of the project, said he is skeptical of some of the information presented to commissioners by opponents. “I would also caution that we seriously look at the claims they’ve made … and whether those claims are substantive,” Maidoff said.

Similarly, West Tisbury resident Tom Hodgson said the cable is not dangerous. “In the course of investigating some of the source material that has been presented against this particular project, I’ve come across ones that are rated very high in terms of pseudoscience, very high in terms of conspiracy theory,” Hodgson said. “I would urge all of you to very carefully examine anything that anyone presents as a backup when they’re making their point.”

Representatives from Vineyard Wind were given a chance toward the end of the hearing to respond to the public’s statements.

Ted Barten, an environmental engineer and a co-founder of Epsilon Associates, a consulting firm, told commissioners a study was done by the University of Rhode Island to look at any effects from undersea cables on marine life. “Power is basically voltage times amperage, so the cable that we’re using is a much higher voltage and hence proportionally lower amperage, which means the magnetic fields are not proportional to the power nor to the voltage, they’re proportional to the current,” Barten said.

The basic study found that there were no negative effects, and animals could freely move across and around undersea cables.

Barten went on to say the two proposed cables emit a low magnetic field strength, or milligauss (mG). Humans and animals are exposed to electromagnetic fields every day, such as the earth’s magnetic field, which measures about 500 milligauss. Measurements directly above the undersea cables measure at 40 milligauss.

“For those who have had an MRI at some point in their life, [they] were in a field of something like 10 to 15 million milligauss. So, like in many things in life, a little perspective is helpful,” Barten said.

After an hour of public testimony, Toole closed the public hearing, but left the written record open until March 28.

Executive director Adam Turner said in all, there were 87 letters to the commission, with 48 in favor of the project. The majority of the 39 opposed were from off-Island sources.

In other business, chairman Douglas Sederholm shared a letter from commissioner Ben Robinson that asks for a more assertive force addressing climate change. Sederholm appointed Robinson to a climate action task force along with commissioner Joan Malkin, to work on addressing climate change issues.

The commission closed out the meeting by entering executive session to discuss their meeting with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and possible litigation.


  1. REGARDING: More support for Vineyard Wind at MVC Vineyard Wind public hearing closes, written record stays open for another week. By Brian Dowd – March 22, 2019. A comment based on reading the letters and the observation made that the 39 who oppose the project are “off Islanders”. The off Islanders are persons who have dealt with and experienced encounters with industrial wind turbines personally; we either know someone, personally, who has been impacted or have lived the reality; because of that, we have done an extraordinary amount of homework. Those who are proponents of the project do not appear to have had that experience, nor do they seem to want to know more. Keep in mind that being first is not necessarily a benefit unless you have no doubt that it is the best thing for the people of the Island, those who visit, those who have a livelihood offshore of the island, those who ferry, the wildlife living beneath the ocean and above. Look to Europe for reality based on years of fighting wind turbines; look to tiny Denmark, which as stated by one writer is approximate size (+-) to Massachusetts and realize that Europe has over 2000 anti-wind turbine groups and tiny Denmark has 200 anti-wind turbine groups. Why would that be? Children wrote letters and a child spoke in favor of the VY project at last nights public hearing; there are many children who have suffered the tortures of wind turbine noise who would not speak in favor; people have left their homes; the Island is only 14 miles from the turbines, you will be impacted; what of the repair boats and known collisions with the turbine structures; cable incidents; what of potential oil spills; how tall are the MHI V164-9.5 MWs; why approve the cable aspect without knowing every detail from around the globe? The off Islanders who write are concerned because they know the truth, they have lived the reality. This caution goes both ways: “Members of the public who support the project cautioned the commission against false information.” I caution the commission and the project supporters to know the truth, every detail of the project, BEFORE YOU GIVE SUPPORT OR APPROVAL. There is no harm only benefit in that. Once the project begins, there will be no stopping it. Get it right before the destruction begins.

    • Marie J, I am from Denmark and know a little about the stats you’re sharing. I also have personal experience with the stories behind them. The 200 groups you’re referring to are not opposing wind mills 14 miles from their homes. They are opposing loud towers the size of small skyscrapers literally in their backyards. If you’ve ever been to Denmark, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I agree that you should not support wind power blindly and that every precaution needs to be taken to avoid some of the issues you raise, but it’s important that we get the facts straight. If the wind turbines were going up in Ocean Park, I’m sure there’d be 200 opposition groups here on the island as well but 14 miles out in the ocean is another story. Let’s avoid comparing apples and oranges so we can all weigh the facts. Thank you.

  2. Hans, do you know anything about a decision December 20, 2018 against an offshore project due to problems with the applicant’s EIA? Something known about the North/South offshore wind farm? It seems that the issue has been around for several years and complaints fell on deaf ears; but, the court just ruled in favor of the people. I know there are complaints about a couple of other offshore Denmark wind projects by the Danish people .. same issues as here, human well-being, harm to wildlife, sealife, lights, noise, prohibitive cost .. I will have to check a statement or document I remember reading about 12.4 miles from the Danish shore. There has been much written about problems with Danish onshore projects ..

    • And the infra sound question. Just like there’s light above and below the range humans can see, there is sound above and below what humans can hear. Complaints do not equal facts. It has not been proved that low frequency sound negatively affects humans. You might question why the cooling fans in motor vehicles, building ventilation systems, and that computer in front of you are not making people ill. But if you are truly concerned, do not drive your car, never turn on the AC or kitchen vent in your home, and never use a computer.

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