Four offshore wind development teams have rights to build in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, but only two decided to compete for Massachusetts’ newest round of wind farm contracts.
Vineyard Wind, owned by Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and the Mayflower Wind group have submitted bids to provide up to 1,200 megawatts of power to Massachusetts from wind farms they would build south of the islands. The bids were made public on Thursday, though details on price remain confidential for now.
Both groups have won contracts with the three major Massachusetts electric utilities before. Vineyard Wind is the furthest along, with federal approvals and financing in hand for an 800 megawatt wind farm that could power more than 400,000 homes. Mayflower Wind — a consortium owned by Shell, EDP Renewables, and Engie — is still in the permitting process for a similar-sized project to serve Massachusetts.
A team consisting of Eversource Energy and Danish energy company Ørsted did not place any bids in the third and latest round of Massachusetts wind contracts, nor did a partnership of Equinor and BP. These groups also have lease rights for waters off Massachusetts but have focused their efforts on supplying electricity to other states, such as Connecticut and New York.
Boston-based Eversource issued a statement saying it would not participate but did not elaborate on the reasoning. Instead, it said its team, working with Ørsted, considers a number of factors when evaluating offshore wind opportunities, including the strategic fit with its existing portfolio and fiscal discipline. Equinor also issued a brief statement confirming its decision not to bid, without explaining its reasoning. Both companies said they look forward to future opportunities in Massachusetts.
There’s been much talk in the industry about the focus on low prices in the Massachusetts bidding rules, while other states put more emphasis on economic development benefits. Price counts for 70 percent of the scoring in Massachusetts, with a price cap in effect that requires each subsequent round to provide electricity at a less expensive rate than what is offered in the previous winning contract — in this case with Mayflower Wind.
The State House News Service reported that House Speaker Ron Mariano is concerned that the emphasis on low prices may be discouraging offshore wind developers, and that he has asked his top point person on energy issues, Jeff Roy, to study whether more legislation is needed to address the issue. “We had a tremendous advantage and it is beginning to slip,” Mariano said during a tour of the five-turbine wind farm off Block Island on Tuesday.
Despite the focus on price, both Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind touted their economic benefits.
Mayflower, for example, wants to build a new terminal in Fall River for boats that would bring operations and maintenance crews out to its wind turbines, creating a new port that will support about 360 jobs. And Vineyard Wind said its “Commonwealth Wind” proposals would help bring good-paying jobs to the South Coast region. Both groups already have plans to use a state-owned terminal in New Bedford built intentionally for the nascent wind farm industry.
The electric utilities — Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil — will work with the Baker administration to pick a winner; a decision is expected in December.