NEW BEDFORD – Time to pop the champagne? For backers of Massachusetts’ proposed offshore wind farms, this could be the day.
May 23 is the deadline for electricity distribution companies to identify one or more winners in the race for the first contract to install commercial-scale wind turbines off the coast of Massachusetts.
“We’re operating under the impression that everything is going to happen tomorrow,” said Lauren Burm, a spokeswoman for Bay State Wind, one of the three competitors. As of Tuesday morning, Bay State Wind had not received word of what time the announcement might come, she said.
The three competing projects are Bay State Wind, Revolution Wind and Vineyard Wind.
Each winner’s next step will be to negotiate with the electric companies. Construction could begin as early as 2019, depending on the project.
A 2016 state law mandates electric companies doing business in Massachusetts – Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil – to buy 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in the next decade, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes.
Each proponent was asked to submit a bid for 400 megawatts of power, which would require about 50 wind turbines. Each has leased a different area of seabed in federal waters south of Rhode Island, SouthCoast Massachusetts and/or Martha’s Vineyard.
In addition to the 400-megawatt proposals, companies were allowed to submit supplemental bids between 200 and 800 megawatts.
More than 70 people from the electric companies evaluated the bids with oversight from an independent evaluator.
A decision was initially due April 23, but it was postponed a month after the same group of evaluators hit a snag with a previous bid process.
The state and the utilities had chosen the Canadian hydropower project Northern Pass for that contract, but then rejected the offer when New Hampshire denied it an important permit. A different hydro project was selected instead.
Revolution Wind is a project of the Rhode Island-based company Deepwater Wind, which is principally owned by the D.E. Shaw Group, an international investment company with headquarters in New York.
Vineyard Wind is owned jointly by funds of the Danish investment company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables.
Bay State Wind is a joint venture between Danish renewable energy company Ørsted and the power company Eversource.
The timeline calls for contracts to be negotiated by July 2 and submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities for approval by July 31.
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