Coast Guard presents Cape Wind radar study findings

Boats remain visible in simulations, if obscured for short periods of time
Abbreviated session Thursday at Sea Crest angers wind farm opponents

By James Kinsella

A $100,000 study commissioned by the Coast Guard into the possible effects of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind turbine farm found vessels would remain visible on radar both inside and outside the wind farm.

But the study, conducted by Technology Service Corp. of Silver Spring, Md., also found that radar readings on vessels inside the wind farm would be obscured for short periods of time by the effect of the wind turbines.

The study further found the effect of the turbines on radar readings increases the farther they became from the observer.

The presentation, which lasted about 90 minutes, concluded amidst angryoutbursts and recriminations from opponents of the wind farm.

The Coast Guard presented findings from the study in a session held Thursday morning at the Sea Crest Resort in North Falmouth.

The presentation, which lasted about 90 minutes, concluded amidst angry outbursts and recriminations from opponents of the wind farm, who said they hadn't been given the opportunity to discuss the study's findings, nor a previously promised workshop to discuss the wind farm's potential effects on navigation.

Guard officials, who entertained a brief question-and-answer period following the presentation, also ended the session about an hour before its anticipated conclusion around noon.

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A very angry Cliff Carroll, founder of WindStop.org, aggressively confronted a Coast Guard official at the meeting. Carroll later called the session "a black eye in the history of theCoast Guard."

Glenn Wattley, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a not-for-profit organization that opposes the wind farm, called the Coast Guard session "outrageous."

Another wind farm opponent, Cliff Carroll, founder of WindStop.org, characterized Thursday's session "a black eye in the history of the Coast Guard."

Wayne Kurker, owner of Hyannis Marine, questioned why the Guard wouldn't want to have a give-and-take with the representatives of marine interests who had been invited to the Sea Crest conference room for the study presentation.

The Coast Guard told participants that no formal comment period was associated with the session (another reason wind farm opponents were angry.) According to the Guard, the public comment period on navigation issues raised by Cape Wind closed in April, but the public will have a new opportunity to comment when the Minerals Management Service publishes its final environmental impact statement.

The Guard held a workshop on the radar issue in October and anticipated a return workshop late in December.

But the Coast Guard dropped the second workshop after the Minerals Management Service, the lead federal permitting agency for the wind farm, requested a faster turnaround.

The wind farm project, which would be built on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound south of Cape Cod, is proposed by Cape Wind Associates LLC of Boston. Project backers say the wind farm, which which would consist of 130 turbines and generate up to 468 megawatts, could meet 75 percent of the electricity demand on the Cape and Islands.

A number of federal agencies have been charged with examining aspects of the proposed wind farm, known as Cape Wind. The Coast Guard has been looking at the project's potential impact on marine safety and navigation.

The Guard initially completed its review in August 2007, but reopened the issue several months ago to take a closer look at Cape Wind's possible effect on radar.

Presented with conflicting studies from Cape Wind and the Alliance, Capt. Raymond Perry, Coast Guard captain of the port for southeastern New England, commissioned a study by Technology Service Corp.

The corporation submitted its report on Tuesday to the Coast Guard.

At Thursday morning's session, David Rugger, a radar engineer who is the primary author of the study, presented computer videos from the report and a summary.

The corporation was asked to look at four different scenarios in and around the proposed wind farm.

They included a ferry moving south along the channel just east of the wind farm, an oil barge moving east in the channel to the south, and a Boston Whaler coming out of the wind farm to cross the barge's route; a fast ferry moving along the northern edge of the wind farm encountering a fishing boat heading northwest out of the wind farm; two fishing boats moving toward each other inside the wind farm with a Boston Whaler near their meeting spot; and a ferry moving north along the eastern channel, a fishing boat moving east along the northern edge, and a Boston Whaler coming fast out of the wind farm to cross the fishing boat's course.

David Rugger, primary author of the radar study, said the boats remained visible to each other in the computersimulations, although reflections and echoes from the turbines sometimes briefly obscuredthem.

Rugger said the boats remained visible to each other in the computer simulations, although reflections and echoes sometimes briefly obscured them.

The Boston Whaler did disappear from view in a modified scenario that included conditions with 3 to 5-foot waves and winds blowing 7 to 10 knots.

After watching the computer videos, Capt. Tom Bushy, vice president of marine operations at Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, said he was concerned about not being able to see the Boston Whaler in one of the main scenarios, as well as what he calculated as a 60-second window for a larger boat to avoid a collision with the Whaler.

Kurker, of Hyannis Marine, said the presentation raises the question of whether the wind farm will render radar useless in foggy conditions.

"I get nervous," Kurker said of the radar simulations. "If each boat doesn't have a red pointer, we're not going to see it."

But Capt. Richard Elrick, president of Clean Power Now, a non-profit organization that supports the wind farm, said the wind farm wouldn't pose anything more difficult in radar readings than what boat captains already see in the Sound.

"We've always felt that when all the facts are on the table, Cape Wind will be approved. We're one step closer."
 - Mark Rodgers, spokesman     for Cape Wind

In a worst-case scenario - a foggy day in early summer with no wind - he said vessels already take precautions to slow down and take extra care, even with radar on-board.

Mark Rodgers, communications director for Cape Wind, declined to comment on whether he considered the radar study favorable to the wind farm's quest to become reality.

Rodgers did say he hoped the Coast Guard's findings would be helpful to the Minerals Management Service, the lead federal agency in the permitting of Cape Wind.

"We've always felt that when all the facts are on the table, Cape Wind will be approved," Rodgers said. "We're one step closer."

 

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