Library filed under Offshore Wind from Massachusetts
The Baker administration this week approved the contracts for offshore wind power generation from the Mayflower Wind project, an offshore wind farm that is expected to provide the state and its electric ratepayers with total economic benefits of about $2.4 billion over the next two decades.
Vineyard Wind has announced a transmission agreement with ISO New England (ISO-NE) to deliver power to the system operator’s grid when the Vineyard Wind 1 project comes online. The 800-MW offshore wind farm, located about 15 miles off the cost of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, is expected to be the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S.
Offshore wind is the renewable-energy industry’s shiny new toy. Led by New York, seven Atlantic-coast states have now imposed mandates to expand offshore wind use over the next decade, with the Empire State last week soliciting bids for an additional 2,500 megawatts of offshore power, on top of the 1,700 megawatts procured previously.
The offshore wind industry, the growth of which has been stunted by a longer-than-anticipated federal permitting process, is critical if Massachusetts and other Northeast states are to meet their carbon reduction goals, a bipartisan group of 40 state lawmakers wrote in a letter supporting the Vineyard Wind I project planned for waters 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.
The impact on local commercial fishing from the Vineyard Wind project was rated as moderate, while the report predicted that the cumulative impact on all offshore wind development planned for the next decade could be major.
The agency “recognizes that fishing is an important use of federal waters that will be considered in its decision-making,” according to the statement. “BOEM will engage with commercial and recreational fishermen to ensure a full understanding of potential impacts. BOEM will solicit input from the fishing community for project siting, best management practices, research, and monitoring.” Specific to the Vineyard Wind project, the environmental statement considers six alternative scenarios for laying out the array – including a dedicated vessel transit lane, as wide as four nautical miles, that was proposed by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a coalition of fishing groups.
The analysis found none of the alternative layouts provided any significant advantage for the fishing industry. “The overall cumulative impacts of any alternative when combined with past, present, and reasonably foreseeable activities on commercial fisheries and for-hire recreational fishing would be major,” the report said. “This impact rating is driven mostly by changes to fish distribution/availability due to climate change, reduced stock levels due to fishing mortality, and permanent impacts due to the presence of structures (cable protection measures and foundations).” The assessment also found that the configuration with a navigation lane reduced the amount of power produced by the wind farm areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts by about 3,300 megawatts.
Publication of the document marks a step forward for the Vineyard Wind project, which has experienced delays over concerns that its wind turbines will hurt commercial fishing. The supplemental review by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, announced last year, also considered the impacts of many such projects due to the growing number of offshore wind farms planned for the East Coast.
The U.S. Coast Guard has concluded that the best way to maintain maritime safety and ease of navigation in the offshore wind development areas south of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket is to install turbines in a uniform layout to create predictable navigation corridors. ...Having 4 nautical miles of space - rather than either 0.7 nm or 1 nm, depending on the direction of travel, under the developers' plan - would allow for "sufficient sea room for large enough alteration of course, made in good time, to avoid close-quarters situations and passing at a safe distance" and provide other safety and navigational benefits, RODA said.
Federal agencies assessing the environmental impact of Vineyard Wind are now expecting the long-delayed process to wrap up sometime in December, according to a top Baker administration official. ...That timetable is problematic for wind farm developers up and down the coast, but especially for the two companies that have been awarded power purchase contracts by Massachusetts utilities and are eager to begin construction.
The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance called for the creation of six travel lanes, each one four nautical miles in width, through the entire lease area off the coast of the two states. The offshore wind developers in November had proposed no special travel lanes, choosing instead to let fishermen navigate through turbines set one nautical mile apart traveling north and south and seven-tenths of a nautical mile going diagonally.
With regard to the proposed spacing of one nautical mile, the fishing group wrote, “RODA reiterates, consistent with each of our previous comments on the record, that most fishing vessels will not be able to operate in this array and significant displacement will still occur due to (one-nautical-mile) spacing.”
The agreement is significant because many Massachusetts politicians, including US Rep. Joe Kennedy III and Sen. Ed Markey, have accused the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Trump administration of playing politics with the process. But the agreement by the five wind farm developers suggests they, and particularly Vineyard Wind, recognized a need to address the consistency of their project designs.
In a bid to work with the commercial fishing industry and other ocean users, the developers planning offshore wind farms in the waters off Rhode Island and Massachusetts have agreed to space turbines one nautical mile apart and lay them out in uniform rows from east to west and columns from north to south.
“Since the business case is being impacted by external delays, we are requesting an extension from the IRS for the originally planned ITCs of the project,” Torgerson told analysts. “We’re petitioning the IRS to get an extension of that ITC at the 24 percent level…through the 2022 timeframe.” The delay means Vineyard may be able to upgrade to longer rotor blades for its 9.5-megawatt MHI Vestas turbines, Torgerson said — jumping from a 164-meter rotor diameter up to 174 meters. Longer blades mean more electricity can be generated.
Few details about the price or the onshore investment were revealed, but Mayflower said in its original bid that the price would be “the lowest cost offshore wind energy ever in the US.” Mayflower is a joint venture of Shell New Energies and EDP Renewables. ...It appears Mayflower was far and away the easy choice. The state’s press release said the company offered a lower price and greater economic development opportunities than the other two bidders – Vineyard Wind, the company that won the first offshore wind procurement, and Bay State Energy, which lost for the second time.
The commission this summer denied the project's plans to bury two transmission cables in Nantucket Sound and Muskeget Channel areas within Edgartown, and the project appealed to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). After the department issued an order of conditions favoring the project, the commission appealed and the settlement was reached before that appeal was fully heard by another wing of the DEP.
“It’s going to take some time, longer than we expected for this project,” said Bennett, who was asked about the agency’s timetable by Attorney General Maura Healey’s chief of staff, Mike Firestone. Bennett was at the Sheraton Boston Hotel taking part in an offshore wind panel at an eastern region meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Offers other options with higher prices plus onshore investments
Edgartown conservation agent Jane Varkonda told The Times Edgartown didn’t receive the August 5 superseding order of conditions from the commonwealth in a timely manner. Varkonda said she learned by happenstance the decision had been made during a conversation with a state official. Upon learning Edgartown was without the decision, the official sent it.