Federal agencies assessing the environmental impact of Vineyard Wind are now expecting the long-delayed process to wrap up sometime in December, according to a top Baker administration official.
The Vineyard Wind project was put on hold indefinitely in August 2019 when the federal government decided to supplement its environmental impact review with a study of the cumulative impact of the many wind farms being proposed along the eastern seaboard. The impact of wind farms on fishermen is a focus of that supplemental review.
Kathleen Theoharides, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said on Monday that federal agencies have developed a new timetable for the review of the Vineyard Wind project that calls for the work to be wrapped up by the end of the year.
That timetable is problematic for wind farm developers up and down the coast, but especially for the two companies that have been awarded power purchase contracts by Massachusetts utilities and are eager to begin construction. The lengthy delay also pushes back the starting point for delivery of wind power that is badly needed if Massachusetts is going to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets.
“What we’ve heard is they’re giving themselves a healthy time budget to make sure they can hit it. And if they can do it faster, they will,” Theoharides said. “Vineyard Wind is still confident they can do the project with that time frame.”
A spokesman for the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management declined to comment on the timetable for the review. He forwarded an excerpt from the agency’s website that said the bureau “is working with cooperating agencies on finalizing a permitting schedule. BOEM anticipates publishing a supplement to the draft environmental impact statement for the Vineyard Wind Project and receiving public comments early this year. The schedule for next steps will be posted on BOEM’s website once it is finalized.”
The original timetable for Vineyard Wind, a joint venture of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Iberdola, called for construction to begin in 2019 and be completed in 2021. The company initially said it needed quick action by the federal government if the project was going to survive, but subsequently backed away from that stance and has indicated it can accommodate some delay.
Mayflower Wind, a joint venture of Shell New Energies and EDPR Offshore North America, is hoping to have its 804-megawatt wind farm up and running in 2025. Mayflower has said it needs to begin construction this year to take advantage of a federal tax credit.
Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind officials had no immediate comment on the regulatory timetable.
Gov. Charlie Baker last year said he hoped the regulatory review could be wrapped up by March, but that target appears to have gone by the wayside.
“It’s not great but it’s better than we expected it to be,” Theoharides said of the December completion date. “It’s better than where the last place the conversations were.”
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