Library filed under Offshore Wind from Massachusetts
It is furthermore unclear how Secretary Bernhardt could issue a decision on the DEIS, when critical impact categories such as fishing vessel transit, disruption payments, baseline ecological information, radar interference and others are yet to be settled.
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 Public’s Radio. This means the country’s first large scale offshore wind farm won’t begin construction in time to take advantage of a lucrative federal tax credit that expires at the end of the year.
With the federal tax credit for offshore wind projects about to expire, every day counts.
Connie Gillette, chief of public affairs for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said Friday the agency took the action after receiving comments “from stakeholders and cooperating agencies” requesting a more robust cumulative analysis that would include projects that have been awarded power purchase agreements, but may not have submitted construction and operations plans.
Vineyard Wind’s, the $2.8 billion, 800-megawatt offshore wind project planned for waters off Martha’s Vineyard, appears to have been delayed, perhaps significantly, by the federal government.
The Trump administration was unsatisfied with the studies done on how much the wind industry would impact the fishing industry and has ordered an extended review: "An Interior Department review explored how Vineyard Wind may affect other industries and resources, including marine life. But the National Marine Fisheries Service raised concerns it looked too narrowly at potential cumulative effects on fishing, prompting the supplemental review."
Beyond the immediate concerns with permitting, Vineyard Wind faces a tangle of logistical challenges and potential investor turmoil if the project continues to see delays. Anthony Logan, an industry expert with the renewables research firm Wood Mackenzie Power, has spent the past six years forecasting the wind energy field. He said that while Vineyard Wind, barring major disaster, remains poised to become the first industrial-scale offshore wind-farm in the U.S., the financial success of the project is dependent on qualifying for a federal tax incentive for wind energy projects, known as the investment tax credit (ITC).
All three federal agencies that weighed in on Vineyard Wind’s construction and operations plan have coalesced around the east-to-west orientation of the 84 wind turbines. The three agencies are supporting a distance of at least 1 mile between the turbines, which is a marked contrast to the company’s diagonal layout plan with less space between, according to the Times review of 349 public comments on the draft environmental impact statement.
One section of the proposed cable route passes through the Muskeget Channel about a mile from Chappaquiddick, and therefore falls under the auspices of the Edgartown conservation commission. In a 5-1 vote, the commission denied Vineyard Wind a permit to lay cable in the channel. Vineyard Wind has since appealed to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
Vineyard Wind already agreed to a nearly $17 million mitigation package in Rhode Island. But it doesn’t look like that will be enough. The fishing industry still has many issues. For example, the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association is worried about the effect these giant towers could have on boat radar, and the impediments that transmission cables could cause.
BOEM spokesman Stephen Boutwell said NMFS is required to co-sign the project’s Record of Decision, a formal decision document, for the permit to be issued. The final environmental impact study and record of decision had originally been expected in April but were later delayed to June and then early July. Boutwell said the agency does not “have a date for these publications at this time.”
The National Marine Fisheries Service is refusing to sign off on an environmental impact report originally expected July 7, Reuters said, citing previously unseen federal documents. Fishing industry representatives want proposed wind turbines farther apart than the currently planned 0.75 nautical mile, want the turbines aligned east-west instead of northwest-southeast, and want compensation for any damage to their livelihoods, according to Reuters.
Members of Congress have become involved in trying to move Vineyard Wind forward, a top Baker administration official said Tuesday, as lobbying intensifies to advance what state officials hope will be the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management offered no explanation for the holdup but said more time was needed. The spokesman also noted that the agency was well within the two-year review window for such projects. The two-year review window is up in March 2020 – after construction was scheduled to begin.
Vineyard Wind, the company that's planning to build the state's first offshore wind farm, is facing setbacks for the project of 84 turbines in waters near Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The Edgartown Conservation Commission voted against approval for transmission cables that Vineyard Wind wants to lay about a mile east of the town. The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has put off issuing a final environmental impact statement on the wind farm. Sarah Mizes-Tan, a reporter with WGBH’s Cape Cod bureau, spoke with WGBH Radio’s Arun Rath about the wind farm and some of the setbacks. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
The clock is ticking. Vineyard Wind’s utility contracts require the first phase to go online by Jan. 15, 2022. The developer has orders with suppliers lined up that could be jeopardized. There’s also some question about a federal tax credit that expires at the end of 2019. Vineyard Wind has apparently qualified, but that status could be in trouble if certain milestones aren’t met. None of Vineyard Wind’s rivals want to see the project collapse.
The Edgartown conservation commission, in a 5-1 vote, has denied a permit for cables that would pass through the Muskeget Channel.
Project officials late Wednesday announced that they had been informed by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that “they are not yet prepared to issue” the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the 800 megawatt project.
“This process is moving too fast, and everyone needs to slow down and make sure we aren’t creating problems for the North Atlantic right whale that can’t be reversed,” Vallorie Oliver of ACK Residents Against Turbines said Tuesday. “This particular animal is clearly struggling, yet it appears that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, in their rush to clear the path for Vineyard Wind, are forgetting their obligation to protect the whale.”