By Beth Daley
More than 200 wind turbines could eventually spin in
The plan – the first of its kind in the nation – allows groups of coastal communities to develop anywhere from seven to 24 turbines in their coastal waters that stretch three miles from shore. Far larger wind farms – similar to what is proposed in Nantucket Sound – could be built off Cape Cod near
While the most prominent feature of the Gov. Deval Patrick administration plan centers on wind farms, it also places new layers of environmental protection on critical resources such as fish nurseries, whale feeding areas, and endangered bird nesting areas. Developers of each proposed coastal water use -- from wind turbines to sand and gravel mining to fish farms -- will have to avoid the critical areas or prove it will not be harmful to them.
“The ocean has sustained the Commonwealth for centuries now and now we are at long last turning our attention to a proactive approach so it can continue to provide into the future," said Ian Bowles, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs. “And it does it very methodically and with the best science available.”
The plan, which would have no effect on the
It is at least the third -- and only successful -- attempt to zone the state’s seas in the last two decades; other attempts collapsed amid bickering among users or stalled with no pressing need. But that has changed as wind turbines have been proposed in recent years, including off
Several environmental groups that criticized the draft ocean plan when it was released six months ago for not having enough environmental protections praised it, saying it would lead to sensible development of renewable energy.
“The state has really stepped up to the plate," said Priscilla Brooks of the Conservation Law Foundation, a Boston-based advocacy group. “It doesn’t prohibit building but now there is a higher standard of review.”
Still, as is the case with virtually every
“I think it isn’t a good plan environmentally, it is not good plan as a matter of public policy,'' said Andrew Goldman director of Let Vineyarders Decide. He said the final plan does not consider alternatives for the large scale commercial wind projects. "Just to use the word green does not make it green and good."
Once, renewable energy projects were largely off-limits in state waters, even as calls were made to create sound ways of developing them. But in May 2008, Gov. Deval Patrick signed the state’s Oceans Act that required environmental officials to come up with a final ocean management plan by the end of 2009.
In the final plan, the only area where development is explicitly prohibited is in the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary, adjacent to the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Realistically, Bowles said, he doubts many projects will be built on the community level because it is simply too expensive to make a profit on small scale wind farms and many areas contain sensitive habitat. But now, if a group of communities wanted to build, a blueprint would be available for them.
A decision on a commercially-scaled project off Nomans Land near Martha's Vineyard would be up to the Martha's Vineyard Commission while the community of Gosnold, which includes Cuttyhunk, would have final say on any large commercial project off its coast, according to state officials. However, the Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard commissions have raised the possibility they also have jurisdiction over the Cuttyhunk area.
Community planning councils largely praised the ocean plan, saying the state worked with them to come up with a formula to determine how many turbines each planning commission could build off its coast.
“It really balances (environmental concerns with development) and opens the way for future development,’’ said Martin Pillsbury of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
Each state planning council has been allotted a maximum number of wind turbines based on miles of shoreline, population, what it felt was an appropriate number of turbines and other factors. It will be up to the councils and host communities to decide to build. The totals allowed are:
Metropolitan Area Planning Council (
Old Colony Planning Council (
Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (