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Report: MA Offshore Wind Project Delayed

Thursday, August 15, 2019

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With work on one of the United States’ first significant offshore wind farms set to commence, the Department of the Interior has extended the environmental study of the project, casting the future of the endeavor into doubt.

Vineyard Wind, valued at over $2 billion and slated to be operational by 2022, was proposed by Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. There are currently plans for other massive offshore wind farms in Massachusetts, New York, Maine and New Jersey.

Project History

The plan, which includes building 84 turbines 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, would see construction commence in January. If work commences in this timeframe, it would make Vineyard Wind eligible for a 12% tax credit from the state, a benefit that some believe ties in with the offshore wind farm’s competitive pricing options.

According to The Maritime Executive, Vineyard Wind would be situated on 160,000 acres of leased property and generate enough energy to power 400,000 homes, removing 1.6 million tons of carbon emissions from the air per year. Each of the wind turbines are to be spaced nearly a mile apart, with each of the turbines capable of generating 9.5 MW of power.

© iStock.com / Ian Dyball

With work on one of the United States’ first significant offshore wind farms set to commence, the Department of the Interior has extended the environmental study of the project, casting the future of the endeavor into doubt.

For offshore construction, environmental mandates forbid building between January and April, and for onshore, the endeavor has agreed to not build between Memorial Day and Labor Day, to account for the local economy.

Submarine cables, situated up to 6 feet beneath the sea floor, would run from the installation to an onshore landing point. The company also noted that the route was established after an extensive geological assessment. According to The Vineyard Gazette, in early July, the Edgartown commission voted 5-1 to deny two undersea cables. At the same time, Vineyard Wind received news that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had delayed the release of the project’s last Environmental Impact Statement.

Recent Developments

Vineyard Wind has since appealed the conservation commission’s ruling to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. That decision is still pending, however. BOEM spokesman Stephen Boutwell noted that the agency has two years from March, 30, 2018, to release a final EIS. Project developers hoped to have the statement in April, but the process has been delayed twice.

The tax credit in question, known as an investment tax credit, is a measure that would return a percentage of the project cost to investors once the endeavor is complete. With the government phasing out the credit, whatever gets returned is reliant upon the project’s start date.

“The federal government’s decision to further delay the approval of the FEIS for the Vineyard Wind 1 project comes as a surprise and disappointment,” Vineyard Wind wrote on the heels of the EIS delay.

“To be clear, the Vineyard Wind 1 project remains viable and is committed to move forward. While we appreciate that the discussion on cumulative impacts is driven by rapid growth of the industry beyond our project, we urge the federal government to complete the review of Vineyard Wind 1 as quickly as possible.”

On Tuesday (Aug. 13), Vineyard Wind announced that shareholders still supported the project,despite the delay. The publication of the FEIS was one of the last steps for the project in regard to the federal permitting process. To date, the review process has also included evaluation from more than 25 federal, state and local regulatory agencies and commissions.

“We appreciate all the support and hard work from our community partners, from the Vineyard to Barnstable, to New Bedford, to the labor unions and environmental groups,” said Erich Stephens, Chief Development Officer.

“We want to assure each of them that we remain committed to moving this project forward as quickly as circumstances allow, and realizing the many benefits that were so close at hand before federal regulators announced their decision.”

   

Tagged categories: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM); Government; NA; North America; Offshore; Program/Project Management; Wind Farm; Wind Towers

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