The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) has put back a crucial approval on the progression of the Vineyard Wind project off the Massachusetts coast. This is an unfortunate hiccup in the process to build another wind farm in the Atlantic, which aims to start construction this year.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Vineyard Wind offshore wind farm is a mandatory requirement for the project, detailing the impact of proposed structures on the surrounding environment. It assists policymakers and stakeholders in making informed decisions and provides a framework for understanding the potential consequences of the proposed project, which include positive and negative effects for the environment, and proposed solutions.
Vineyard Wind is a 50/50 joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and Avangrid Renewables, which will utilize 84 turbines of 9.5MW capacity. The 800 MW project, to be sited in the sea 14 miles (24km) off Martha's Vineyard. The array is aiming for first power in 2022 and could supply electricity for up to 400,000 homes. See our interview with the CEO of Vineyard Wind, Lars Thaaning Pedersen here.
The View from the Vineyard
Vineyard Wind issued a statement: “The federal government’s decision to further delay the approval of the FEIS for the Vineyard Wind 1 project comes as a surprise and disappointment. To be clear, the Vineyard Wind 1 project remains viable and is committed to move forward. While we appreciate that the discussion on cumulative impacts is driven by rapid growth of the industry beyond our project, we urge the federal government to complete the review of Vineyard Wind 1 as quickly as possible. The project is poised to kickstart a new offshore wind industry that promises industrial growth along with new manufacturing and blue-collar employment across the United States from New England to Louisiana to Colorado and beyond.
“Even though today’s decision will delay development of American offshore wind projects, Vineyard Wind remains deeply committed to the emerging industry’s success. We firmly believe that once regulators are fully satisfied, our project and dozens of others will deliver billions of dollars of new investment in ports, enhanced energy independence, and above all, high-paying, long-term jobs for thousands of Americans.”
BOEM has not publicly commented on the reasons for this delay. Nor has it announced a date by which the FEIS would be concluded, and the project could move forward.
The Trade Association Engages with the Issue
The offshore industry trade organization NOIA also made clear its disappointment about the setback. Vice-President of Government and Political Affairs, Tim Charters, said, “The decision to extend the environmental review of the Vineyard Wind project is disappointing to many who are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to join the offshore wind industry boom coming to the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. We understand that the permitting of significant energy projects is challenging. To make any project carry the cumulative impact of other projects, that may or may not ever come to be, is a burden that makes permitting much more difficult.
“We encourage the federal agencies to view this project on its individual merits, benefits and environmental impacts when reaching permitting decisions. We expect that DOI will continue to work diligently to complete their environmental review of this crucial project. NOIA continues to believe that Vineyard is a win-win for the American people, the offshore energy industry and the environment.”
Vineyard Wind has released a statement that they will still deliver the project, albeit with a delayed schedule. The United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has indicated the supplemental process is needed to examine the effects from the many offshore wind projects that are expected to follow development of the Vineyard Wind array. There has been press speculation that local fishermen were unhappy with the spacing and siting of the turbines.
“We are very proud of the Vineyard Wind team’s achievements so far and we are disappointed not to deliver the project on the timeline we had anticipated,” said Lars Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind. “We were less than four months away from launching a new industry in the United States, so we thank the more than 50 US companies already awarded a contract or currently bidding on contracts, the financial institutions engaged in raising more than $2 billion in capital, and the first-class, global contractors that have joined us in planning for the first large-scale offshore wind farm in America. We remain committed to delivering that ambitious target and would like to thank Governor Baker, the Massachusetts legislature and our bipartisan backers in Congress led by the Bay State delegation for their collective support and courage in driving this industry forward.”
The statement also says, “Vineyard Wind has not yet received any documentation as to the requirements for the expanded analysis that BOEM indicated in a public statement issued on August 9th. However, it is clear that the timing of such an analysis is not compatible with the original timeline that has been communicated to Vineyard Wind since March 2018, which Vineyard Wind used to build its delivery schedule. With this development, the shareholders must revise the project as the original timeline is no longer feasible.”
This clearly means a delay to the project, which was intended to start construction this year. While BOEM’s caution is understandable, this knockback will have an effect on confidence within the fledgling US OW industry.
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By Julian Jackson – writer on technology, arts, blockchain and cryptocurrencies