Feds Delay Environmental Permit for Vineyard Wind Project

  • Aug 13, 2019
  • Power Magazine

The developers of a multibillion-dollar wind farm off the Massachusetts coast said August 12 they would continue with the project, despite the federal government delaying an environmental impact statement needed for the offshore facility.

Vineyard Wind, a joint venture of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners of Denmark and Oregon???s Avangrid Renewables, on Monday in a statement said its shareholders had ???affirmed a commitment to deliver a proposed 800-megawatt (MW) wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, albeit with a delayed project schedule.??? The statement said the group would use the delay period ???to further improve the project and enhance its many benefits, to the extent feasible.???

The U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on August 9 put the project???s environmental review on hold. Vineyard Wind, sited between Block Island and Martha???s Vineyard, has been touted as the nation???s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm. Block Island in Rhode Island is near the nation???s first offshore wind farm, a 30-MW project brought online in May 2017 and profiled by POWER.

Federal officials on Friday said they need more time to research the wider impacts of the U.S. offshore wind industry, which is poised for rapid growth, particularly along the East Coast. Equipment makers also are announcing advancements in wind turbine technology.

Delay Impacts Financing, Construction

Vineyard Wind officials had said in July that their $2.8 billion project needed the environmental permit by the end of August, or else the development would be at risk of cancellation. The developers have said delays will impact financing and construction of the project, and disrupt the supply chain of equipment needed for the wind farm.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has considered Vineyard Wind a key component of his administration???s clean energy plan. Baker signed House Bill 4568??????An Act to Promote Energy Diversity??????in 2016, a measure with bipartisan support from state lawmakers. The bill among other things included provisions related to procuring wind energy and hydropower, improving energy storage, and creating a sustainable commercial energy program. The legislation calls for energy companies to secure long-term contracts for at least 1,600 MW of wind power by June 30, 2027. Baker at the time said his office would work with federal regulators to ensure construction of Vineyard Wind would begin this year.

The developers have said they planned to financially close on the project and begin onshore construction work this year, with the first turbine installed offshore in 2021, and the entire 84-turbine wind farm operational in 2022. The delay in issuing the environment permit could alter that timeline.

Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen in a statement Monday said, ???We were less than four months away from launching a new industry in the United States, so we thank the more than 50 U.S. companies already awarded a contract or currently bidding on contracts, the financial institutions engaged in raising more than $2 billion in capital, and the first-class, global contractors that have joined us in planning for the first large-scale offshore wind farm in America. We remain committed to delivering that ambitious target.???

Governor Meets with Federal Officials

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