May 10, 2019

Offshore wind project wins OKs for transmission

By Colin A. Young / State House News Service | May 9, 2019 |

BOSTON – The 84-turbine wind farm planned for waters off Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday secured approval from the state board that reviews proposed energy facilities for the transmission cables that will deliver its renewable energy and the substation that will connect the project to the power grid.

Vineyard Wind said the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board approved the three petitions it filed to construct and operate 27 miles of on- and off-shore 220-kilovolt electric transmission line, a substation in Barnstable and a 0.1-mile 115 kV underground transmission line between the substation and an existing facility in Barnstable.

“Approval by the Massachusetts EFSB is another affirmation of the collaborative, community-focused approach that Vineyard Wind has taken in designing and developing the nation’s first commercial scale offshore wind project,” Erich Stephens, chief development officer of Vineyard Wind, said. “We want to thank the residents and officials of the Town of Barnstable who took the time to explore opportunities to address local concerns while simultaneously delivering enough cost-competitive, carbon-free energy to serve six percent of the Commonwealth’s electricity demand, making the project a real win-win-win.”

In its notice advising the public that it would consider Vineyard Wind’s petitions, the EFSB said its role was “to determine whether the Project would provide a reliable energy supply for the Commonwealth with a minimum impact on the environment at the lowest possible cost … whether the proposed Project is necessary, serves the public convenience, and is consistent with the public interest … whether zoning exemptions are required for the Project and whether the present or proposed use of the land or structures is reasonably necessary for the convenience or welfare of the public.”

Officials at the Energy Facilities Siting Board were not immediately available Thursday to confirm the approval, and the ruling was not listed among the agency’s recent decisions on its website.

According to the agency’s notice, Vineyard Wind was seeking approval of two proposed routes and variations for transmission cables though it plans to ultimately build only one. Both proposed routes “begin at the outer limit of Massachusetts waters approximately six miles southeast of Chappaquiddick Island, and six miles southwesterly of Muskeget Island, and run northerly to shoreline landing areas in Yarmouth or Barnstable,” the EFSB said.

Depending upon which offshore route Vineyard Wind selects, it identified two possible routes to carry the power generated at sea from the shoreline to a substation Vineyard Wind plans to build 5.5 to 6 miles inland at the Independence Park commercial/industrial area in Barnstable.

EFSB said the proposed onshore routes “are all entirely underground and are located primarily within public roadways, with some shorter stretches in existing utility transmission rights-of-way (‘ROW’), a MassDOT-owned railroad ROW, and, in some instances, along a MassDOT-proposed bike path corridor and/or unpaved access roadways.”

Utility companies and the state tapped Vineyard Wind to construct an 800-megawatt wind farm 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 34 miles from the mainland to fulfill the first half of a 1,600 MW procurement called for in a 2016 clean energy law.

Massachusetts environmental officials completed their review of the Vineyard Wind project, which is expected to be operational by 2022, in February. The EFSB was looking only at the transmission aspects of the project, not the wind farm itself.

Vineyard Wind is planning to financially close on its project and begin on-shore construction work this year, put the first turbine into the seabed in 2021 and have the 84-turbine wind farm operational in 2022.

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