FAIRHAVEN — Gail Isaksen, a lifelong Fairhaven resident, was not surprised that this hard-working fishing village on Buzzards Bay has suddenly emerged as the latest target for an offshore wind farm, after a proposal to build one off swankier Nantucket hit resistance in Congress and among local politicians.
The proposal, Isaksen said, made her think of battles to keep out a landfill and sewage treatment plant. And now here comes Jay M. Cashman, a prominent Boston developer, with his plans to build 120 wind turbines in the bay, each of which would rise 450 feet into the air, with some as close as 2 miles to shore.
“It seems like we always get the things other people don’t want,” said Isaksen, 61, the owner of Euro at Phoenix, a clothing and gift shop in Fairhaven Center. “And there’s a reason people don’t want them. Go put them outside Marblehead Harbor or Oak Bluffs.”
To many in this quiet town of 16,000, 60 miles south of Boston, Cashman has picked the wrong place for his project, which he calls South Coast Wind . While many in Fairhaven said they like the idea of cleaner, cheaper electricity, they said the proposal to build the turbines in Buzzards Bay could disturb their way of life and hurt their livelihood.
One seasoned lobsterman said he worries about pleasure boaters hitting turbines in the fog. Several homeowners on Sconticut Neck, a windblown finger of land that juts into Buzzards Bay, said the towers would ruin their views and spoil a natural treasure. “It would be an obstacle course,” said Peter Brightman, 58, a retired boatyard owner, as he scanned the horizon outside his house, his family’s summer refuge for three generations. “They’re talking about a lot of these critters.”
Bob Graves, 51, whose parents live next door, was blunter. “it just wouldn’t be the same here,” he said. “They need to put them somewhere else, not here.”
Whether they liked the idea or not, some residents like Isaksen said they were not surprised that this area of Southeastern Massachusetts — with its bustling lobster boats, scallopers, and other fishermen — appears to be gaining favor as a place to build wind turbines.
“Nantucket has a lot of millionaires,” Isaksen said. “Maybe they thought we wouldn’t notice.”
To be sure, the towns along Buzzards Bay have their share of wealthy homeowners. While US Senator Edward M. Kennedy has a home in Hyannis Port just miles from the proposed Cape Wind project that he opposes, US Senator John F. Kerry’s family has used exclusive Naushon Island in Buzzards Bay as a summer retreat for generations.
Cashman pointed out that Naushon, as well as tony Dartmouth, would have turbines off their shores. The developer said he chose Buzzards Bay for its engineering merits, not its demographics. The area, he said, has average annual wind speeds of 20 miles per hour, ocean depths of 50 to 60 feet to anchor the turbines, and is close to existing transmission lines.
By 2011, he hopes to build clusters of 30 to 40 turbines off Fairhaven, Dartmouth, and Naushon. The turbines, he said, would generate enough electricity to power half of Cape Cod.
“It’s nothing about the politics, that these people might be easier to deal with than other groups; that’s zero in consideration,” Cashman said yesterday. “No matter where you site water-based projects, there’s a lot of stakeholders. . . . It isn’t about who lives where, it’s about where is the lode that you can plug into, where is there water that is not too deep, where does the wind blow.”
And some residents said yesterday said they thought that wind turbines were a good idea for Fairhaven. “Bring ’em on,” said Mike Medo, 41, a fisherman who was tucking into a plate of French toast at Pumpernickel’s, a cafe.