Feds delay approval of Mass. offshore Vineyard Wind project

Posted Aug 19, 2019 by Karen Graham
Final approval for the Vineyard Wind Project will likely not happen for at least another 18 months, according to information received from multiple sources by The Connecticut Public Radio.
Deepwater Wind
Vineyard Wind, the nation's first large-scale offshore wind project, was set to start construction this year. The $2.8 billion, 800-MW proposed project off the coast of Massachusetts could power more than 400,000 homes.
Vineyard Wind was supposed to be the second offshore wind farm in the U.S., after the 30-MW Block Island park off Rhode Island that entered into service in December 2016.
Vineyard Wind was just one of 19 companies that qualified to take part in the bidding process of a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) wind auction held in December 2018 for three tracts of the Atlantic Ocean located 19.8 nautical miles from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., 16.7 nautical miles from Nantucket, Mass., and 44.5 nautical miles from Block Island, Rhode Island.
Sea-based wind parks are Germany's latest answer to its search for more renewable energy
Sea-based wind parks are Germany's latest answer to its search for more renewable energy
However, earlier this month, BOEM said it was expanding its review of the environmental impacts of the project to include a "more robust" analysis of the potential cumulative impact if other offshore wind farms are built, according to Inside Climate News.
The way things stand now, with the Department of the Interior now saying they will put off making a decision on the project's approval until December 2020, It looks like the developers of Vineyard Wind will not be able to take advantage of a tax credit that is set to end at the end of this year.
Vineyard Wind's developers—Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of a Spanish energy company, and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, a Danish investment firm, say they are still committed to the project, however, the potential loss of the tax credit could lead them to rethink their plans.
The largest offshore wind farm on the planet  Walney Extension  is situated in the Irish Sea.
The largest offshore wind farm on the planet, Walney Extension, is situated in the Irish Sea.
What this means for utility prices
The developers won a contract with three Massachusetts utilities to sell power at 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to the over 16 cents Massachusetts homeowners are paying now. The price was based on getting that all-important tax incentive, reports Utility Dive.
U.S. Rep William “Bill” Keating (D-Mass) blames the Trump administration for the delay by the Interior Department. “They're throwing a stop flag up on this project that was moving along consistently,” Keating says. “It could cause serious problems in terms of financing capitalization.”
The problem could become a moot point if the tax credit was extended. Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) introduced federal legislation in June that would extend the investment tax credit for offshore wind development to 2026.
A beautiful sight off the coast of Block Island  Rhode Island.
A beautiful sight off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island.
Deepwater Wind
"If my legislation doesn't get passed it could be a signal that establishing offshore wind is going to be more challenging,” Langevin says, noting he doesn’t know if the bill could pass by year-end. “We’re going to do everything we can to see if the bill gets passed on its own or a broader package.”
Many people believe this move by the BOEM is politically motivated. It goes along with Trump's efforts to expedite fossil fuel projects and reduce environmental regulations. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt was the person ordering the BOEM to conduct an additional study for the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project.
Bernhardt is a former oil and gas lobbyist who had served under former Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke. And being one of Trump's hand-picked "yes men," it really isn't much of a surprise that he came up with such a ludicrous idea for delaying this renewable energy project.