Interior clears path for nation’s 2nd offshore wind project

Source: By Heather Richards, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Block Island wind farm off RI. Photo credit: Heather Richards/E&E News.

Dominion Energy Inc. has cleared key permitting hurdles to raise the newest offshore wind turbines in the United States since a pilot project off Rhode Island went live in 2016.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management — which oversees leasing and permitting for the nascent offshore wind industry — issued a “no objection” to the design and installation plan for the pilot project, largely clearing the way for construction, the Virginia utility announced Monday.

Dominion’s demonstration project aims to place two 6-megawatt turbines nearly 30 miles off Virginia Beach, Va. The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project would be the first offshore farm in federal waters and the second in the United States, joining the Block Island wind farm located in state waters off the coast of Rhode Island.

Mark Mitchell, Dominion’s vice president of generation construction, said in a statement that the permitting green light for the demonstration project was an important “milestone.”

The two-turbine operation will help Dominion develop its full-scale offshore wind plans in nearby waters that the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has leased from the federal government, he said in a statement.

Dominion reported it is on track to start construction in 2020.

“We are very proud of this accomplishment, which will enable us to maintain momentum in the project and may serve as a blueprint of success for others,” said Steve Dayney, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy’s U.S. head of offshore, in a statement. Siemens will manufacture the two turbines. The Danish power company Ørsted A/S is contracted to assist with engineering and construction.

The pilot development and the Block Island wind farm are dwarfed by the projects planned in the next few years.

Falling wind development costs in Europe, as well as climate policies from coastal states, are driving the young industry. Projects planned near Long Island, N.Y.; Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.; and Atlantic City, N.J., are part of a 20,000-megawatt combined commitment to offshore wind from seven coastal states.

The first project of scale to reach development was expected to be Vineyard Wind, an 800-MW farm proposed off the coast of Massachusetts. Its environmental review was delayed in July by the Interior Department’s decision to study cumulative fishing impacts from offshore wind along the east coast (Climatewire, Sept. 6).

A spokesman for BOEM said the agency anticipates the review being completed by the end of year or early next year.

The regulatory setback for the industry, however, was followed by an announcement in the United Kingdom of the lowest offshore wind prices in history, a 30% drop from 2017.