The Town of Nantucket is set to receive $16 million in restitution for the potential historical, cultural, and economic impacts of Vineyard Wind’s offshore wind farm slated for installation south of the island later this year.
Cultural Heritage Partners (CHP), the law firm hired by the Town to negotiate on offshore wind projects, secured this remediation as part of a lengthy dialogue with Vineyard Wind.
CHP has spent the last few years pushing for Nantucket’s interests before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Vineyard Wind, securing other concessions including the removal of the first row of turbines at the offshore wind farm and less visible paint for the installation.
But local anti-offshore wind advocacy group Nantucket Residents Against Turbines (ACKRAT) argues that they haven’t gone far enough and has accused CHP of lying about their motives. During the Select Board meeting where the CHP presented their findings, ACKRAT board member Amy DiSibio called the mitigations they obtained “little things,” and suggested they should have tried harder to prevent the installation of the wind farm in a location where it can be seen from the shore of Nantucket.
CHP argues they have done all they can.
“There’s no law that can prevent the building of the wind farms,” CHP attorney Greg Werkheiser said.
“It was a runaway freight train that was going to happen regardless,” Select Board member Matt Fee said. “We started some of the conversations with ‘we don’t want [offshore wind farms] at all,’ but we heard back ‘well, you can try that...but you’re going to get them.’...I think [CHP] did really well.”
Renewable energy advocates have also pointed to the benefits of offshore wind, which include 99 percent lower carbon emissions than fossil fuels and better energy generation than many renewables, including onshore wind.
However, CHP has been critical of the BOEM’s approach. They believe BOEM’s visual presentations are lacking and argue that BOEM has been skipping legally required steps in the permitting process while not always offering appropriate remediations.
Vineyard Wind’s installation has come under increased public scrutiny recently after ACKRATs filed a lawsuit to temporarily block the construction of the wind farm, which they allege will prove dangerous to right whales.
Renewable energy advocates disagree. In 2019, Vineyard Wind reached an agreement with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, and Conservation Law Foundation to implement various protective measures to ensure the safety of right whales. The wind farm has cleared the federal environmental review process and has the support of many conservation groups and state-level politicians.
Mere hours before the Select Board discussion on Wednesday, energy company Avangrid finalized an agreement to take over the management and operation of the wind farm. Avangrid has been a leader in renewable energy and is looking to expand its portfolio. This agreement should not affect the remediations guaranteed to the Town, nor should it affect the plans for the offshore wind farm.
CHP also presented on several other wind farms that will be constructed within view of Nantucket’s coast that have not yet attained regulatory approval, including Mayflower Wind, which will be 23 miles off the coast of Nantucket and feature up to 147 wind turbines potentially as tall as the Eiffel Tower.
“They’re approaching some of the tallest turbines we’ve seen on the East Coast,” CHP attorney Will Cook said.
There are two more wind farms, Bay State Wind and Beacon, which may ultimately be visible from Nantucket, but at this stage, not much information about these projects is available. The burst of offshore wind projects near Nantucket is part of a wave of construction all along the east coast, with a higher concentration in New England, as energy companies scramble to grab a portion of the booming renewable energy industry.