Cape Wind submits final impact report to Massachusetts environmental agency

By Corina Rivera for SNL Energy Power Daily Northeast, February 21, 2007

Cape Wind Associates LLC filed its final environmental impact report for the proposed 130-turbine offshore wind energy project on Feb. 15 with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office.

The developer said the filing responds to questions about its draft environmental impact report.

“We hope this filing brings the public benefits of cleaner air, greater energy independence and new jobs closer to becoming a reality for the citizens of Massachusetts,” Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said in a statement Feb. 20.

According to the report, the project will be arranged to maximize its generating capacity in order to achieve a maximum potential electric output of roughly 454 MW. The wind-generated electricity from each of the turbines will be transmitted via a 33-kV submarine transmission cable system to an electric service platform centrally located within the wind turbine generators’ array.

The project is proposed to be located on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound. The northernmost turbines will be about 5.2 miles from Point Gammon and the southeastern portion of the project will be roughly 13.8 miles from Nantucket.

Based upon financing occurring the first quarter of 2008, the turbine and interconnection cable installation will start in the summer of 2009 and be completed by the end of 2010.

“Although the Project, by itself, will not stop global warming or eliminate air pollution, it provides significant mitigation for climate change and improved air quality,” the report said.

Furthermore, the project provides an opportunity to achieve a significant annual and long-term reduction of greenhouse gases and other emissions produced by existing or new fossil fuel plants by, for instance, displacing energy that would be produced by existing fossil fuel-fired generating units, the report said.

Cape Wind has collected and analyzed more than five years of avian use data for the Horseshoe Shoal and Nantucket Sound.  Among other things, the report said that potential impacts to avian species are expected to be minor.

Also, the risk of project vessel collisions with marine mammal and sea turtle species has been determined to be very low because, for instance, vessel traffic associated with the project will not occur in areas where there have been high concentrations of marine mammal and sea turtle sightings.

Among other things, the report stated that vessels transporting construction materials to the project site in Nantucket Sound will travel at slow speeds, usually at 10 knots or below.

In addition, Cape Wind “plans to work cooperatively with commercial/ recreational fishing agencies and interests to ensure that the construction and operation of the Project would minimize potential impacts to commercial and recreational fishing interests.”

Regarding proposed mitigation for potential impacts to eel grass as a result of the project, the report stated that Cape Wind will, for instance, not anchor vessels or perform cable installation work in the area where eel grass beds are located.

To mitigate potential impacts to historic and archaeological resources, Cape Wind has redesigned the project for the final report to minimize visual impacts to the extent feasible, including reducing lighting on the turbines. Potential nighttime visual
impacts have been lessened by the reduction in Federal Aviation Administration nighttime lighting (from the originally proposed 260 lights down to 57), the report stated.

The project design has also mitigated potential operational sound effects to the extent practicable through the selection of state-of-the-art, very low noise turbines and their siting offshore roughly five or more miles from any populated area.

The report noted that the environmental impacts from the equipment used during decommissioning activities would be similar to impacts experienced during construction. “However, it is reasonable to expect that, over the next 20 years, technological advances in methods and equipment servicing the offshore industry will result in some level of reduced environmental impacts.”

The state policy office will take public comments on the final report for 30 days, starting Feb. 20, Cape Wind said in its statement.