Two more wind farms sought off Vineyard

Source: By Donna Goodison, Boston Globe • Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Two more companies want to construct wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts, generating hundreds of megawatts of wind energy from potentially 100 or more turbines.

Unsolicited lease requests were received by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management from subsidiaries of Germany’s PNE Wind AG and Norway’s Statoil ASA to develop designated wind energy areas south of Martha’s Vineyard, adjacent to sites already leased for wind farms by Dong Energy A/S and Offshore MW.

The requests for the offshore leases come amid growing interest in developing clean energy off the Atlantic coast. The United States has awarded 12 leases for wind farm projects, and in August, Deepwater Wind LLC completed the first U.S. offshore wind farm, the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island.

PNE Wind USA Inc. and Statoil Wind US LLC have submitted competing requests to lease an approximately 248,015-acre area and an adjacent area that’s about 140,554 acres. Both went unsold in a previous January 2015 lease auction.

PNE hopes the completion of the Block Island project, which started generating electricity in December, is a milestone that “marks a turning point for the U.S. offshore industry.”

Offshore wind enjoyed strong support under the Obama administration, which outlined plans to encourage private development of 86,000 megawatts of capacity by 2050. It’s unclear whether the same will be true under President Trump, who has derided wind power as ugly and overpriced.

The government will proceed with a competitive leasing process that will include public notice to other potential developers before a sale. A lease gives a company the exclusive right to use an area to develop site assessment plans and subsequently seek BOEM approval for development.

PNE wants to develop at least 400-megawatt-capacity wind farms with potentially 40 to 50 turbines each in both locations, which are 64 to 76 nautical miles southeast of the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset.

A state law passed last year to promote energy diversity requires Massachusetts utilities to sign long-term contracts for at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power from companies with leases at least 10 miles offshore that were secured after Jan. 1, 2012. The first solicitation must be made by July 31.

“Beyond Massachusetts, it is also possible that a more inter-regional market develops in the Northeast in the coming years, which would provide other power purchase options as well,” PNE said in its applications.

Statoil said the two combined offshore areas’ location near a population cluster with high demand for energy gives it the potential to develop one or more wind farms with a capacity of 3 to 15 gigawatts. But a phased development is likely a better fit and would be “more suitable to local stakeholders,” with a first project including 400 to 600 megawatts of capacity, its application stated.