Conn. awards major offshore project to Vineyard Wind

Source: By Benjamin Storrow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, December 8, 2019

Vineyard Wind won a contract with Connecticut to develop an 804-megawatt offshore wind project, state regulators announced yesterday.

The news hands the developer a major victory as it works to break a federal permitting logjam on its first project, an 800-MW proposal contracted to supply power to Massachusetts. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management brought that development to a halt this summer, saying a cumulative environmental evaluation of other projects in the area was needed before it can proceed.

In a conference call with reporters, Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen said BOEM told the company it anticipates finishing its study of the Massachusetts project in the first half of 2020. The Park City Wind project, Vineyard’s second development for Connecticut, will be included as part of that review, Pedersen said.

“Once the programmatic review for offshore wind in a more general sense is concluded, we would expect some of the challenges we’ve faced with the first project would be already handled in a much earlier stage than what we saw with the first project,” Pedersen said.

Vineyard Wind, a partnership of Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, beat out two other developers for the Connecticut contract. The price of the electricity to be supplied by Vineyard Wind was not disclosed, but state regulators said it was below the lowest publicly announced price for an offshore wind project in the United States.

Pedersen said the company would take advantage of the investment tax credit for renewables if it is still available, but that the project was not contingent on receiving the federal subsidy. Park City Wind is projected to begin construction in 2023, with commercial operations slated for 2025.

Connecticut officials said the project would be able to generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 14% of the state’s electric demand. They estimated it would displace 25 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 4.8 million cars.

Vineyard Wind will invest $890 million in Bridgeport, an economically struggling port and Connecticut’s largest city, as part of the deal. The company plans to redevelop an 18-acre parcel equipped with a facility to manufacture transition pieces, which essentially connect the turbine to its foundation.

The deal is Connecticut’s third procurement of renewable energy. Last year, the state contracted for 304 MW of offshore wind from ├śrsted A/S, the Danish wind giant.

“Connecticut is diversifying its offshore wind portfolio with this latest procurement selection, which sets up Connecticut as a regional leader in the creation of a thriving industry that will bring tangible benefits for our state and the entire region,” Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said in a statement.

The offshore wind industry has experienced whiplash this year, as a series of Northeastern states announced contracts to buy electricity from proposed offshore wind developers. New York and New Jersey announced a first round of projects this year, while Massachusetts recently contracted for its second offshore wind development.

Yet much of that momentum stalled when BOEM announced that a cumulative impact study of Vineyard Wind’s Massachusetts project was needed. The development is the first large-scale offshore wind project proposed in the United States. BOEM’s call for additional environmental review came amid mounting pressure from fishermen, who have argued that offshore wind threatens their industry.

A BOEM spokesman confirmed yesterday that the bureau is targeting early 2020 for completion of the study of Vineyard Wind’s Massachusetts project.

Vineyard Wind’s decision to move forward despite the permitting woes is an encouraging sign for the industry, said Anthony Logan, an analyst who tracks the industry at Wood Mackenzie.

“It is in an indicator that we should be patient, but the prize appears very real, and we seem on our way to achieve it,” Logan said. “It may just not be as front-loaded as we thought a year ago.”