The Trump administration has ordered a major environmental review of the growing offshore wind industry – a review that some experts see as derailing the nation’s first major project and raises questions concerning future developments, Kallanish Energy learns.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (Boem) has ordered a study of the cumulative impact of a number of projects along the U.S. East Coast.
The review comes in response to concerns from fishermen about the impact of offshore wind development on East Coast fisheries.
Applies to projects with signed Ppas
A Boem spokeswoman told E&E News the review would focus on projects with signed power purchase agreements (Ppas). Nine projects in seven states with a combined capacity of 4,800 megawatts are planned to come online in the next few years.
The study will also consider the environmental implications of an even larger build-out of the industry, based on states’ development targets for offshore wind.
The study will supplement an environmental impact statement of Vineyard Wind LLC, the country’s first major offshore project. The 84-turbine project would be located in U.S. waters 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.
3% of New England’s power needs
The wind farm will be capable of producing 800 MW of electricity, enough to supply 3% of New England’s annual energy needs.
“Because BOEM has determined that a greater build out of offshore wind capacity is reasonably foreseeable than was analyzed in the initial draft Eis [environmental impact statement], Boem has decided to supplement the Draft Eis and solicit comments on its revised cumulative impacts analysis,” Tracey Moriarty, a spokeswoman for the bureau, told E&E News.
‘Step in the wrong direction’
Offshore wind farm proponents were not pleased with the Boem plans. “The recent announcement by US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (Boem) to delay the approval of the Federal Environmental Impact Statement (Feis) for the Vineyard Wind 1 Project and expand the environmental review is a step in the wrong direction,” said Liz Burdock, President & CEO, Business Network for Offshore Wind.
“This step could lead us down a road that slows the creation of new jobs for Americans, and the delivery of cleaner energy needed to reduce carbon emissions.”
Burdock said requiring a project to assess the impacts of all potential future projects, even though those future projects are not yet defined, is “extraordinary.”
“This requirement adds cumbersome regulatory hurdles to an already long and arduous process — a process that’s safe, protective of the environment, stimulating to the economy, and in keeping with the needs of all commercial interests.”
Two New York state projects to be analyzed
Boem’s Moriarty said Boem’s analysis will consider two projects recently announced by New York state: Equinor ASA’s 816 MW Empire Wind and Ørsted A/S’s 880 MW Sunrise Wind development, as well as Ørsted’s 1,100 MW Ocean Wind project in New Jersey.
The new analysis throws Vineyard Wind’s future into doubt. The developer, a partnership of Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, warned it would be difficult to proceed if Boem delayed its environmental analysis beyond the summer, E&E News reported.
Vineyard Wind’s problems are several, according to industry analysts and those familiar with the project, E&E News reported. The project had anticipated taking a 24% tax credit on $2.8 billion in capital costs. That enabled the company to sign a contract with three Massachusetts utilities at a price far lower than what analysts had initially expected.
But the tax credit expires at the end of 2019. While the project could still qualify for an exemption because of the permitting challenges it has faced, the logistics associated with building America’s first major offshore project makes that more complicated.
Vessels contracted to begin work on Vineyard Wind this fall will not be available again in several months thanks to Europe’s offshore wind construction season, experts said. Vineyard Wind is likely looking at a year delay before it can get boats back to the U.S.
This post appeared first on Kallanish Energy News.