Interior Dept. Delays Vineyard Wind Construction Until 2020

Source: By Mary B. Powers, Engineering News Report • Posted: Friday, September 13, 2019

Massachusetts’ 800-MW Vineyard Wind
New U.S. Interior Dept. demands will delay construction of Massachusetts’ 800-MW Vineyard Wind. MAP: BOEM

Construction of the country’s first commercial scale offshore wind farm off Massachusetts’ coast will be delayed until at least next year while the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management determines the cumulative effect on commercial fishing of building multiple wind farms in the region, the agency said in a recent update.

Vineyard Wind, a joint venture of Copenhagen Investment Partners and Avengrid Renewables, is developing the 800-MW, $2.8 billion project.

The developers had expected to begin construction before the end of the year to take advantage of a significant federal tax credit for renewable energy that expires on Dec. 31.

Five other offshore wind projects are planned adjacent to the site.

The original timeline set by BOEM, within the US Interior Dept., was to release a final environmental impact statement in July, but that timeline was delayed when the agency said stakeholders and cooperating federal agencies requested “a more robust cumulative analysis.”

It anticipates completing the draft environmental review supplement “late this year or early next year,” with a public comment period and public meetings to follow.

The project falls under President Trump’s executive order that government agencies complete all environmental reviews and make authorization decisions within two years, but BOEM says the additional environmental study would push permits past the two-year mark in March.

The agency also noted that Vineyard Wind’s construction and operations plan, submitted in December 2017, will be reviewed and will prompt another round of environmental study and public comment.

BOEM cited comments from commercial fishing operations and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, both in the US Commerce Dept., as the reason for the new review of the potential cumulative impact of offshore wind capacity. buildout.

In an Aug. 27 letter, five governors asked Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to find a way to complete reviews and green-light project start by March.

“Further government delay would have negative impacts on this project, offshore wind development along the east coast and the further expansion of American jobs that support this industry,” said governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Virginia.

Vineyard Wind has vowed to move ahead with the project despite setbacks, and in late August submitted a set of new large-scale commercial offshore wind proposals to Massachusetts utilities, including a 400-MW project and an 800-MW project for its Vineyard 2 development.

The proposals offer significant job creation and port investment for the region while ensuring an attractive, fixed price for electricity, CEO Lars Pedersen said.

“While the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management might be justified in hitting the pause button, the agency must not use this delay to kill the project,”  New York Newsday said in a Sept. 9 editorial. “Offshore wind is essential to the fight against climate change, in New York and elsewhere. Its benefits easily outweigh any negatives.”