Key dates and events in the development of New England’s offshore wind industry:
July 2001: Proposed Cape Wind project thrusts offshore wind power into the public consciousness.
June 2004: A report on Cape Wind shows what 130 wind turbines would look like in Nantucket Sound, less than 5 miles from Cape Cod. While the project was never built, it increased awareness of the potential for offshore wind installations off the Massachusetts and Rhode Island coast.
April 2008: Rhode Island issues request for proposals for turbines in state waters. This project later becomes Deepwater Wind’s five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm.
2010: Offshore wind developer Vineyard Wind signs an agreement with Vineyard Power, a nonprofit group of about 5,000 Martha’s Vineyard residents. The partnership would later allow the company to get a discount on its development lease according to the company.
February 2012: The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the state of Massachusetts announce the federal government will consider commercial wind power development off Massachusetts’ coastline on the Outer Continental Shelf. BOEM solicits public comment.
May 6, 2013: State and local officials gather in New Bedford for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of the soon-to-be-constructed Marine Commerce Terminal. One of its expected uses will be as a staging area for offshore wind developers.
July 2013: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management holds the nation’s first-ever competitive lease sale for renewable energy in federal water for two areas off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Deepwater Wind wins the auction. The areas could generate enough power for more than a million homes.
June 2014: The bureau and Gov. Deval Patrick announce that more than 742,000 additional acres off Massachusetts will be made available for offshore wind. The proposed area is the largest to date in federal waters and will nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commercial wind energy.
Dec. 31, 2014: Cape Wind misses a deadline to secure financing for its project in Nantucket Sound. Utilities terminate contracts with the company in early January. Many consider a fatal blow, but efforts to revive the project continued into 2017.
January 2015: Lease auction is held for the four locations that comprise the acreage off Massachusetts announced the previous June. Winners for two locations are RES America Developments Inc., which later transferred its interest to DONG Energy (later renamed Orsted) and Offshore MW (later renamed Vineyard Wind). The two other sites do not receive bids.
2015: Offshore Wind Massachusetts, an advocacy group backed by three wind suppliers, starts formal lobbying efforts. The group wants a state law mandating that electric companies purchase wind power.
2015: Construction of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal is completed. The $113 million terminal is expected to serve as a launching point for installation of offshore turbines.
July 2015: The Thorco Svendborg cargo ship delivers the first wind turbine parts to New Bedford’s Marine Commerce Terminal. The parts are for land-based turbines in Plymouth.
Summer 2015: DONG Energy’s North American general manager, Thomas Brostrom, moves to the United States. He later tells The Standard-Times the company is excited about the prospect of developing an industry up and down the Eastern Seaboard. “We would never come over here to build one project,” he said.
2016: DONG Energy sells a 50 percent ownership stake in its project, Bay State Wind, to New England utility company Eversource.
August 2016: Gov. Charlie Baker signs the “energy diversity” bill. At the time it was the nation’s largest commitment to offshore wind by a state. It requires electricity distribution companies – Eversource, National Grid and Unitil – to buy long-term contracts for at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in the next decade, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes. The companies have to solicit bids jointly by June 30, 2017 for the first project, which must provide at least 400 megawatts of power.
Late summer of 2016: Deepwater Wind installs five offshore wind turbines near Block Island.
September 2016: All three companies vying for a contract to develop offshore wind installations south of Martha’s Vineyard Island sign a letter of intent to stage their operations in New Bedford.
December 2016: Block Island Wind Farm begins generating power.
February 2017: Deepwater Wind, headquartered in Providence, opens a New Bedford office led by former New Bedford Economic Development Council Executive Director Matthew Morrissey, who founded and managed the now-shuttered Offshore Wind lobbying group.
2017: Vineyard Wind opens an office in the Bank of America building in downtown New Bedford.
March 2017: In a process that involves the Massachusetts Department of Energy resources, state Attorney General’s Office and the electric companies, interested parties were required to submit suggestions by March 13, for what a Massachusetts request for proposals might include. Suppliers are asked how much time they’d need to develop proposals, how many megawatts of capacity the initial solicitation should require, what documentation of cost bidders should have to provide, and more.
May 31, 2017: Brayton Point Power Station, the last major coal-fired power plant in New England shuts down at midnight, increasing the demand for electricity. Two of the three wind power companies bidding in Massachusetts later say they would use the site to hook into the power grid.
June 2017: Massachusetts bid requirements are scheduled to be released. The document is expected to include the deadline for bids.
Summer 2017: Suppliers prepare to do additional research such as surveying the offshore areas to gather information before preparing their bids.
October 2017: DONG energy, one of the three companies vying for a contract in Massachusetts, shifts its core commitment to renewable energy sources and changes its name to Orsted. DONG, an acronym for Danish Oil and Natural Gas, no longer fit the company’s mission, Orsted company officials said.
December 2017: The three companies competing to build an offshore wind energy installation off the Bay State coast submit their bids for the project.
December 2017: Two of the three offshore wind companies vying for a Massachusetts contract – Deepwater Wind and Bay State Wind – say they would use the shuttered Brayton Point Power Station site in Somerset as a place to plug into the New England power grid.
January 2018: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces a master plan for offshore wind development generating 2,400 megawatts. The renewable energy would be enough to power 1.2 million homes.
January 2018: Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection joins the offshore wind gold rush, announcing a request for proposals to build up to 220 megawatts of offshore wind power.
January 2018: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy sets a goal of developing 3,500 megawatts (or 3.5 gigawatts) of offshore wind capacity by the year 2030.
February 12, 2018: Fishermen and offshore wind developers hold a three-hour meeting at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology. Fishermen express frustration, complaining that offshore wind companies have not listened to their concerns regarding navigation, fishing habitat, underwater cables and other issues.
March 2018: “Wind Power to Spare,” a report released by the offshore wind advocacy group Environment Massachusetts, says Massachusetts has the potential to generate more offshore wind energy than any other state – enough to handle the commonwealth’s electricity needs 19 times over. The report was funded by foundations that support Environment Massachusetts and its parent organization, Environment America.
April 2018: The National Coalition for Fishing Industries, a group representing fishermen and the fishing industry, writes a letter to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker noting concerns about the coming offshore wind industry. Among other conditions, the group requests that New Bedford’s Port Authority represent New Bedford’s fishing interests for all three offshore wind bidders.
April 2018: Massachusetts officials announce a delay in the awarding of the state’s first offshore wind energy bids, citing problems encountered by utility companies working to clear storm damage from multiple coastal storms during March.
May 2017: Bay State Wind officials say the German steel company EEW and Texas steel company Gulf Island Fabrication will use the Brayton Point Power Station site to manufacture wind turbine foundations if the company is awarded a contract for offshore wind.
May 23, 2018: State announces the winners of the first offshore wind energy bids in waters off the coast of Massachusetts.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR OFFSHORE WIND?
Following are significant dates and projected dates for continued development of offshore wind installations in the federal waters south of Massachusetts:
July 2018: The construction timeline calls for contracts to be negotiated by July 2 and submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities for approval by July 31.
2019: Permitting and financing for the first project could be finished. Construction could begin shortly thereafter.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), New Bedford Wind Energy Canter, Deepwater Wind, Orsted (formerly DONG Energy), Vineyard Wind, Matthew Morrissey, Office of Gov. Charlie Baker, State offices and RFP documents from Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
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