Hull, Massachusetts has been a pioneer in developing wind energy in Massachusetts. The town, which has a municipally-owned electric light department, installed two wind turbines: Hull I (660 kW) and Hull II (1.8 MW), before exhausting its available land for further turbine installation.
The town then turned to the sea. Hull is evaluating options for constructing the first community-owned offshore wind farm in the United States. Currently a project consisting of four turbines capable of producing 12 to 15 MW, or about the town’s average load is planned. Pre-development work commenced in 2005, consisting of a sub-surface geophysical survey, a wind farm layout, and other key pre-permitting work. An Environmental Notification Form was submitted in December 2007, and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environment and Energy Affairs issued a “Certification Letter” in February 2008 which provided guidance for the town in preparing and submitting an Environmental Impact Review, a substantial undertaking which was completed in December 2008.
Graduate students at the Wind Energy Center assisted Hull with the project. Wind data collection at Little Brewster Island near the proposed installation location, employing both meteorological towers and advanced remote sensing instruments, has helped to characterize the details of the wind energy resource. An Acoustic Doppler Profiler was lowered into the target site location waters to study wave heights and frequencies, enabling more detailed understanding of the potential fatigue-inducing actions of the sea on future installations. In 2007, a major effort was completed to integrate all the site selection criteria into a unified methodology, with the Hull project as the case study for application.
Wind Energy Center graduate students also investigated the potential impacts of the prospective facility on the local grid. In 2008, major geotechnical studies were completed, including vibracore soundings, side-scan sonar surveys, and electromagnetic surveys. Several deep sea-bed core samples were taken and assessed. A major effort to integrate the wind energy, environmental, and geotechnical data into a unified Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database is underway.
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources as well as the US Offshore Wind Collaborative and the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, were instrumental in supporting the Hull Offshore Wind Project. Under a separate contract, the Wind Energy Center examined the feasibility of a windpowered desalination plant and developed a computer model of how such a system could be integrated into the Hull wind energy enhanced electrical grid.
In 2009, the project received federal funds to conduct next phase R & D and permitting activities.