Library filed under Offshore Wind from Massachusetts
The top U.S. energy regulator is chastising his colleagues in a very public Twitter dispute that shines a light on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s inner workings.
A dizzying description of industrial players, leases, government agencies, and technical sounding energy phrases leaves even the determined reader at a loss to keep up. It is clear that the pace of decisions by the federal and state governments are bringing us very close to a no-return point over questions of design, scope and layout for the biggest ocean turbines ever to be installed (roughly 600′ tall or double the height of the Statue of Liberty). ...Whether you’re involved in the ocean economy or not, the current review process on off-shore wind will determine a lot about the future of the coastal New England communities we cherish. While ocean wind power is coming, there remain safety issues yet to be resolved.
The analysis indicates a working wind farm last winter would have reduced the region’s carbon dioxide emissions and wholesale electricity prices, but not enough to eliminate the impact of the region’s pipeline constraints. The analysis also shows that a wind farm’s energy production is highly variable, going up and down fairly dramatically over the course of a day.
Less than three weeks before Rhode Island coastal regulators are set to vote on a key approval for its $2-billion offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind has yet to come forward with a compensation package for the state’s commercial fishermen who say that the layout of the company’s 84 turbines will block access to valuable Atlantic Ocean fishing grounds.
The recent record-breaking auction of development rights for offshore wind-energy installations off the coast of southern New England proves that developers are confident that obstacles to their construction and operation will likely be few. But after just two years of operation of the nation’s first offshore wind facility — the much-heralded Block Island Wind Farm — there is still a great deal unknown about their long-term environmental impact.
Although the wind farm would be built in federal waters and supply power to Massachusetts, Rhode Island has the latitude to effectively veto it. By law, development in federal waters cannot interfere with a state’s coastal activities, such as fishing, and must comply with state regulations.
Rhode Island coastal regulators granted Vineyard Wind a stay in permitting proceedings on Tuesday, giving the New Bedford company another two months to reach agreement with fishermen who say they would lose access to valuable fishing grounds in the waters where 84 wind turbines would be installed.
Katie Almeida, fishery policy analyst for The Town Dock, a squid dealer and processor in Rhode Island, said that for two years, her company has been asking for at least five years of pre-construction fishery monitoring, and the conversation has not gone any further. “And now we’re down to what, a year?” she said. “How can we get any meaningful science and study done that’s going to actually hold up to any kind of scrutiny for baseline studies?”
Gov. Charlie Baker wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Thursday to ask him to consider eliminating the highest-priority fishing areas from future leases for offshore wind, particularly in the New York Bight, a heavily fished area south of Long Island.
“In the final analysis, Vineyard Wind was not willing to commit to Yarmouth to do the things that our community was asking for,” Holcomb said. The town’s questions went unanswered by Vineyard Wind, Yarmouth Town Administrator Daniel Knapik said. ...“Right now, we are really not moving ahead with anything,” Holcomb said of the town’s interactions with Vineyard Wind.
The terms of the lease were set in September 2016, when all three companies vying for state offshore wind contracts committed to use the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal under the same terms if they were selected.
The proximity of the men’s grant areas means their oysters, which total about 3,250,000, could be smothered by sand and silt that’s stirred up when Vineyard Wind lays the cable, the letter contends. Although Vineyard Wind officials have met with the shellfishermen multiple times and proposed solutions that include installing silt curtains while work is conducted, there’s no evidence those solutions will work, according to the letter.
A September report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch indicated that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would approve projects like Vineyard Wind in a timely manner, Beane said. The report said timing of permitting affects whether offshore wind developers can take advantage of federal investment tax credits that are expected to expire in 2024.
As local opposition to a proposed high-wattage transmission cable intensifies, Yarmouth selectmen have rejected a second offer by offshore energy company Vineyard Wind to pay for costs incurred as the town considers a host community agreement with the company.
In response to feedback from fishermen and community members, Bay State Wind has revised the turbine layout pattern for its Massachusetts offshore wind project.
When he spoke to fishermen across the pond, he learned they were wary of navigating between the turbines. “If the little boats are afraid to go in there, there’s no way a trawler from New Bedford is going to go in there,” Hansen said.
"The fishing industry can only hope that the wind energy developers finally recognize that U.S. fishermen are going to do whatever is necessary to continue to fish where they please for the foreseeable future," Dave Wallace, a Maryland-based consultant for the ocean clam industry, said in an email. "Developers have two choices, a confrontational way, which is time-consuming and expensive, or through the two industries finding common grounds where both can survive and prosper."
The Vineyard Wind project is split into two, 400-megawatt phases, with the first phase scheduled for completion by January 15, 2022, and the second phase by January 15, 2023. The price for energy and the environmental attributes (called renewable energy credits) starts at 7.4 cents a kilowatt hour in phase one and 6.5 cents a kilowatt hour in phase two. The prices escalate at 2.5 percent a year over the 20-year life of the contract, with an average blended cost of 8.9 cents a kilowatt hour.
A plan by offshore power company Vineyard Wind to bring a high-wattage cable through Lewis Bay and onshore in West Yarmouth is energizing residents, who say that no amount of compensation is worth the damage the project could potentially inflict. “This is not about money,” West Yarmouth resident David Bernstein said at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, which was devoted primarily to public comment on the project. “I don’t care if Vineyard Wind gives $10 million a year to the town of Yarmouth. If the bay is killed, it is killed.”