The installation of undersea cables connecting the proposed Park City Wind offshore wind farm to a Barnstable substation was approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on Thursday.
The export cables, which will be buried under the Atlantic seabed, will transfer the electricity generated by the proposed Park City Wind, 19 miles off the Island’s coast.
The Park City Wind farm, still in its permitting phase, is the result of a collaboration between New England Wind and Avangrid Renewables, and is expected to generate around 800 megawatts of electricity for the ISO New England grid.
This follows the 2019 MVC approval and subsequent permitting of Vineyard Wind 1, an offshore 62-turbine wind farm located 15 miles off the Island’s southeastern coast.
The New England Wind connector cables for the Park City Wind project will be installed via an undersea corridor, contiguous to that of the Vineyard Wind lease area.
The project will require widening the existing cable corridor about 985 feet, to a total of approximately 3,100 to 5,100 feet, “to provide flexibility in terms of routing the cable and avoiding sensitive habitat on the ocean floor,” and will pass through the Muskeget Channel, off Chappaquiddick.
The cables themselves are around 10 inches thick, and at its closest point, will be around one mile from Edgartown’s shoreline.
Commissioners expressed a few concerns about the project’s potential ecological impact, with Commissioner Trip Barnes advocating that the commission consider the proximity of the project to Chappy fishing waters. Barnes said it would be wise to legally “protect” the Vineyard and commission before approving the cable installation.
Commission chair Joan Malkin made note that “the cable does not land on the Vineyard at all. It simply passes through our waters.”
Commissioner Fred Hancock argued that the MVC would not necessarily need to consult legal reps regarding any potential liabilities. If there were to be “any problem with the transmission, [the company would] fix it,” he said, “or [the wind farm] is going to be sitting there useless.”
Barnes disagreed. “Our job is to protect the Vineyard’s interest,” he said, “I think we should ask our counsel.”
Barnes subsequently entered a motion to vote whether to engage their attorney, and mentioned perhaps conditioning the project to ensure the Island could not be held financially responsible for any mishaps resulting from the electrical cables.
“If something goes wrong, we’re not protected,” he reiterated, suggesting that Park City Wind should “post a bond for any [potential] damage that is created when the cables [are installed].” Commissioner Christina Brown seconded the motion, and resulted in a 3-7-3 vote, ultimately rejecting Barnes’ suggestion.
The commission proceeded to unanimously approve the proposal, with the exception of Barnes, who abstained.
In other wind farm-related business, the commission approved a proposal from Vineyard Wind to demolish an existing M.V. Airport hangar — utilized as storage space currently — and replace it with a slightly larger structure, totaling around 9,000 square feet.
The new construction will store one helicopter, and facilitate easier access to Vineyard Wind 1’s offshore wind farm, allowing for air-delivered maintenance and technical support. Vineyard Wind 1 is slated to become operational next year.