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

BOEM Delays Vineyard Wind Until 2020

Construction of the country’s first commercial scale offshore wind farm off Massachusetts’ coast will be delayed until at least next year while the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management determines the cumulative effect of construction of 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. Five other offshore wind projects are planned adjacent to the site.

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.

BOEM’s original timeline was to release a final environmental impact statement in July, but that timeline was delayed when BOEM said stakeholders and cooperating federal agencies requested “a more robust cumulative analysis.” It anticipates completing the supplement to its draft EIS “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 there is a potential that the additional environmental review would push permits past the two-year mark in March.

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

BOEM cited comments from commercial fishing operations and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service as the reason for the new review of the potential cumulative impact of the build out of offshore wind capacity.

The governors of five states asked Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to find a way to issue a Record of Decision for the project by March 2020. “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,” the governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Virginia, said in an Aug. 27 letter.

Vineyard Wind has vowed to move ahead with the project despite setbacks, and in late August submitted a set of 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.

See Engineering News-Record article . . .