The long-delayed Vineyard Wind offshore project has been put back on track by the Biden administration.
In one of her first actions as the new director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Amanda Lefton pledged on Wednesday to conduct a “robust and timely” review of Vineyard Wind and essentially resume the permitting process where it left off in December. That’s when the developers of Vineyard Wind withdrew their proposal for a wind farm that could generate 800 megawatts of electricity, enough power for more than 400,000 homes, to be built about 12 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Soon after Joe Biden became president last month, the developers rescinded their withdrawal and requested that BOEM resume its review.
Vineyard Wind, a joint venture of Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, was to be the first major offshore wind farm in the United States. It would be financed through contracts with three major Massachusetts electric utilities. But the project ran into delays under the Trump administration, after commercial fishermen raised concerns that the giant turbines would be hazardous to their work.
The developers have changed the turbines they plan to use. The nearly $3 billion project will now include 62 of Boston-based General Electric’s Haliade-X turbines. A spokesman for Vineyard Wind said the project is still on track to obtain financing this year, with a goal of getting built in time to generate power by the end of 2023.
Katie Theoharides, Governor Charlie Baker’s energy secretary, praised the federal agency’s decision to keep the Vineyard Wind project moving along.
“This puts Vineyard Wind, an 800-megawatt project that really kicked off the gold rush for the offshore industry here in the US, once again back in the position to deliver on that promise of clean, affordable energy and jobs here in Massachusetts,” she said. “It’s a very good indictor for all of the projects up and down the eastern seaboard.”
Theoharides said the Baker administration expects Massachusetts will need 15 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2050 to help meet the state’s goal of achieving “net zero” carbon emissions by that date. That’s 10 times the amount of offshore wind power that is under contract today in Massachusetts, including through Vineyard Wind and a similar-sized offshore proposal called Mayflower Wind. The administration and the utilities are authorized to offer contracts for another 1.6 gigawatts.
The Legislature just passed a wide-ranging climate bill last Thursday that allows for another 2.4 gigawatts. Baker previously vetoed this bill when it came before him about a month ago. It’s unclear what Baker will do this time; he has 10 days from when he gets the bill to decide. Theoharides said officials in the administration are still negotiating with legislative leaders about aspects of the bill.
The Biden administration’s decision prompted a word of caution from the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, which represents the interests of dozens of fishing vessels in East Coast ports. The group issued a statement urging BOEM to stand by the administration’s commitment to “responsible development” of the offshore wind industry.