Editorial: Scouting a better path

Scouting a better path

Posted 10/31/19

At 210 feet long with 53 foot beam, the big ship that squeezed past Stone Bridge and into Tiverton Basin last week looked out of place and far too big for such close confines. Maybe it’s in …

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Editorial: Scouting a better path

Scouting a better path

Posted

At 210 feet long with 53 foot beam, the big ship that squeezed past Stone Bridge and into Tiverton Basin last week looked out of place and far too big for such close confines. Maybe it’s in trouble, spectators wondered, as it turned about, ever so slowly, out off Standish Boat Yard.

It turns out that this crew knew precisely what they were up to, and their visit is one more sign that our region is finally — and belatedly — facing up to energy realities.

The shallow draft ship Conti is here to conduct a geotechnical survey of waters from Brayton Point on Mount Hope Bay, out the Sakonnet River to beyond Martha’s Vineyard.

It’s been hired by Bay State Wind to assess and map those waterways as a potential route for cables linking a proposed 110-turbine offshore wind farm to the mainland. Such a farm, the company says, could power up to a half million homes.

Another smaller vessel did similar work in the river a couple of years ago, and Conti has also been mapping routes for possible wind farms off Long Island and New Jersey.

It’s an especially pleasant irony that Brayton Point, once among the filthiest of all coal-fire power plants, the single biggest polluter of air in New England, might someday serve as a terminal for offshore wind and other clean alternative energy — tidal power has also been mentioned.

It makes sense. In mid-demolition, Brayton Point is a mess at the moment, but the location is well-suited to this new role. It is blessed with deep-water access and comes with a link to the regional power grid already in place. That’s a rare combination.

Not everybody is a fan of offshore wind. Fishermen worry about its impact, and President Trump is not a fan — he’s called wind turbines “ugly, “disgusting, “stupid” and has said their noise causes cancer (The American Cancer Society says that’s not true). It’s said he has hated wind power ever since turbines went up years ago within view of his golf club in Scotland.

But most understand by now that we must find better ways to power our planet than burning fossil fuel. Wind, sun, tide — these are the keys to our future and there’s no time to lose putting them to good work.

This ship, and all it represents, was a most welcome sight.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.