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US Approves First Major Offshore Wind Farm

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

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Last week, the Biden administration announced the approval for construction and operation of Vineyard Wind 1, the nation’s first large-scale offshore windfarm.

“A clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States,” said Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior. “The approval of this project is an important step toward advancing the administration’s goals to create good-paying union jobs while combatting climate change and powering our nation.”

Vineyard Wind 1, Promoting Offshore Wind

More than three years ago, Vineyard Wind's joint project owners Avangrid Inc. (a subsidiary of Avangrid, which is part of the Iberdrola Group) and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners began its federal permit process for Vineyard Wind 1. However, according to reports, the permit process was met by a string of delays involving concerns over disrupted commercial fishing operations.

To mediate these concerns, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management made several key changes since submitting the project’s final environmental review in March, which includes the prohibition of installing turbines in locations closest to the coast and reducing the number of turbines from 100 to 84 or fewer. Additional changes also require that the turbines be constructed no less than 1 nautical mile apart to ease navigation and that a federal program is established to study the project's effect on scientific fishery surveys.

Itsanan Sampuntarat / Getty Images

Last week, the Biden administration announced the approval for construction and operation of Vineyard Wind 1, the nation’s first large-scale offshore windfarm.

“We will have a robust monitoring program, where we will learn and understand the impacts here, so that we can apply that to future projects going down the line,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Amanda Lefton regarding the fishing industry’s concerns.

In 2019, the Interior Department put a pause on the project by extending the environmental study in August. Now approved, the Vineyard Wind 1 has been sited for construction over 160,000 acres of leased property roughly 12 nautical miles from the shoreline of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Estimated to have a $2.8 billion price tag, joint venture Iberdrola and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners have already been tapped for the project.

Made up of as many as 84 turbines, once completed, the offshore windfarm will generate roughly 800 megawatts of energy, or enough to power about 400,000 homes and businesses in the New England area, removing 1.6 million tons of carbon emissions from the air per year.

Most of Vineyard Wind's components will be manufactured in Europe, however, due to the lack of a U.S. supply chain for the domestic industry, the company noted, but has since reported that the facility has confirmed the use of GE Renewable Energy’s huge Haliade-X turbines. The decision for using GE means that the project should only require up to 62 turbines.

“The fact that there was uncertainty of whether the industry would happen was sort of holding back those investments,” Vineyard Wind Chief Executive Lars Pedersen said. “We definitely think they are going to flow right now.”

Also announced last week, the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium launched a comprehensive U.S. offshore wind supply chain project. The purpose of the Supply Chain Roadmap is to present the collective benefits of a domestic supply chain and facilitate the acceleration of the offshore wind industry in the nation.

The project is a partnership between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Business Network for Offshore Wind, the State of Maryland, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Building a domestic offshore wind supply chain is a key step in achieving the cost reductions, economic development, and sustainable industry needed to meet DOE’s goal of 30 GW by 2030,” said Matt Shields, Senior Offshore Wind Analyst at NREL. “This project will help the United States leverage existing manufacturing and workforce capabilities to grow a network of domestic suppliers.”

Work on Vineyard Wind 1 is expected to launch as early as this year, creating some 3,600 jobs, with the goal of delivering electricity to the grid during the second half of 2023.

“We're really looking forward to now moving into the phase where we can actually start building the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S.,” said Pedersen.

The project is reported to run in line with President Joe Biden’s—alongside the U.S. Department of Interior, Department of Energy and Department of Commerce—plans to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind in America by 2030, while protecting biodiversity and promoting ocean co-use.

According to the President’s Fact Sheet, if this target is met it will “trigger more than $12 billion per year in capital investment in projects on both U.S. coasts, create tens of thousands of good-paying, union jobs, with more than 44,000 workers employed in offshore wind by 2030 and nearly 33,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity.”

“A key part of President Biden’s energy plan is to ramp up offshore wind as a central part of the US decarbonization plan. But the Vineyard project is really kicking off the industry in earnest. It’s a bit of a watershed. It’s a huge moment for what will be a really exciting market,” said Jonathan Cole, the head of Iberdrola’s global offshore wind business.

“We’ve seen the potential in the US for many years, and we have quite a big pipeline of projects totaling 7,000 megawatts that we’re working on off the coast of Massachusetts, or down the coast of North Carolina. Vineyard is the first of many.”

The creation of these offshore wind farms would also generate enough power for more than 10 million homes for a year and reduce CO2 emissions by 78 million metric tons.

“U.S. states, particularly in the north-east, have been putting in place targets for offshore wind, and legislating the processes for procuring offshore wind,” Cole added. “But under the new government administration there is a far better alignment between the federal government and the U.S. states in terms of the potential for offshore wind.”

Not only would the domestic offshore wind industry to meet the 2030 target by utilizing this area—New York has a target of 9,000 MW of offshore wind and New Jersey has set a 7,500-MW goal, both by 2035—there would be massive supply chain benefits as well.

According to The White House, in meeting this 2030 target, the supply chain would benefit through new port upgrade investments totaling more than $500 million; one to two new U.S. factories for each major windfarm component including wind turbine nacelles, blades, towers, foundations, and subsea cables; additional cumulative demand of more than 7 million tons of steel—equivalent to four years of output for a typical U.S. steel mill; and the construction of four to six specialized turbine installation vessels in U.S. shipyards, each representing an investment between $250 and $500 million.

To help cover these changes, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation has reported it will be making available $230 million for port and intermodal infrastructure related projects such as storage areas, laydown areas and docking of wind energy vessels to load and move items to offshore wind farms. The DOE is also making $3 billion available in debt capital, through loan programs, to support offshore wind projects, including transmission systems to link to land-based power grids.

Recent U.S. Efforts for Clean Energy, Offshore Wind

While President Biden announced that the White House and leaders of the Administration developed a set of actions aimed at catalyzing offshore wind energy back in March, his efforts to tackle the climate crisis originally began after the November election, when the Biden-Harris transition team released its plan regarding climate change, highlighting the incoming administration’s early priorities.

Overall, Biden planned to dedicate $1.7 trillion to overhaul energy, transportation, agriculture, and other sectors. According to the transition document, the team will go beyond just recommitting the nation to the Paris Agreement on climate change, and aims to build a more resilient, sustainable economy through the creation of union jobs within these new investments.

In April, President Biden released the “American Jobs Plan,” a $2 trillion spending proposal that aims to invest in the nation by creating millions of good jobs, rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, and positioning the United States to out-compete China.

Looking at specific investments, the plan allots $621 billion to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure; $689 billion for buildings and utilities; and $500 billion for worker training, research and development and domestic manufacturing initiatives. To further break things down on the transportation front, the proposal includes:

  • $174 billion for electric vehicle incentives;
  • $115 billion for roads and bridges;
  • $85 billion for public transit;
  • $80 billion for passenger and freight rail;
  • $50 billion in disaster resilience of infrastructure;
  • $25 billion for airports;
  • $20 billion to improve road safety;
  • $20 billion to mitigate infrastructure impact on underserved communities; and
  • $17 billion for waterways and ports.

Other notable initiatives for buildings and utilities include:

  • $100 billion for electric grid and clean energy;
  • $66 billion for water systems; and
  • $45 billion to eliminate lead pipes.

As early as last year, however, the U.S. DOI reported that it was planning on issuing two proposed rules for offshore wind projects. The rules were expected to streamline the permitting requirements and eliminate unsolicited leasing on the outer continental shelf.

The reforms stemmed from President Donald J. Trump’s Spring Regulatory Agenda, which taps the BOEM for the regulations. Among the considerations was altering a leasing practice so that third parties can bid for an area that’s not already the subject for federal solicitation.

These rule changes later coincided with BOEM’s decision on the Vineyard Wind 1 project.

   

Tagged categories: Carbon footprint; Department of the Interior; Energy efficiency; Government; Government contracts; NA; North America; Offshore; Ongoing projects; President Biden; Program/Project Management; Project Management; U.S. Department of Energy; Wind Farm; Wind Towers

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