Delayed Fed OK of Big US Offshore Wind Farm Puts Power Start Date at Risk
Operation of America's first commercial offshore wind power farm now will not happen in 2022, as feared after federal officials said Feb. 11 that they expect a 16-month delay in issuing a final environmental impact statement for the Vineyard Wind project in Massachusetts waters.
“While we need to analyze what a longer permitting timeline will mean for beginning construction, commercial operation in 2022 is no longer expected,” Lars Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind said in a statement about the $2.8 -million, 800-MW project that is sited 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.
The project has been contractually set to begin delivering 400 MW of power to state utilities in January 2022.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the Interior Dept., announced it has pushed back publication of the project's environmental impact statement (EIS) to December 2020. It had originally been set for August 2019.
The delay results from the agency’s decision to expand its analysis of Vineyard Wind to include cumulative environmental and commercial effects of other offshore wind projects that have been awarded power purchase agreements, as well as impacts of state procurements of offshore wind generation that are expected to be awarded.
The department now notes the need to consider a greater buildout of offshore wind capacity in the Northeast than was analyzed in the draft EIS approved for Vineyard Wind, a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables.
Other federal agencies and commercial fishing interests have asked for a more cumulative analysis, agency officials said.
But many sector observers say the delay stems from a Trump Administration aversion to offshore wind energy in the U.S., claiming commercial hazards.
The U.S. Coast Guard, in a just completed study, says offshore wind turbine grid designs in New England will not require changes to shipping routes nor will projects interfere with radar, according to a Feb. 15 online report in EcoRI News, which also notes new pushback from Massachusetts' Congressional delegation.
Meanwhile, the nearby 804-MW Mayflower Wind project, also selected by Massachusetts officials to supply clean energy to the state, is not set to be completed until 2025.
The state Dept. of Energy Resources recommended on Feb. 11 that a 20-year contract with utilities National Grid and Eversource Energy be approved at a levelized price lower than that of Vineyard Wind’s long-term contract for power, noting "the declining cost for offshore wind generation.”
The project uses a technology with relatively high production during winter months, the state said.
Vineyard Wind’s contract price is 6.7 cents/kWh in 2019 dollars. Mayflower’s equivalent net present value in 2019 dollars is 5.8 cents/kWh.
The 84-turbine Mayflower project is proposed to be built 20 miles south of Nantucket. It is a joint venture of Shell New Energies, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell, and EDP Renewables North America, part of a Portuguese company.