On the heels of another federal permitting delay, Vineyard Wind announced Tuesday that it is temporarily withdrawing its construction and operations plan from further review by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management but the company says its pause won’t delay the planned start of clean power generation.
The announcement came in conjunction with news that the 800-megawatt offshore wind project plans to use GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade-X wind turbine generators when it begins construction, which it called “industry leading” and “the most powerful in operation to date.”
Project developers told BOEM on Tuesday that they plan to launch their own “final technical review associated with the inclusion of the Haliade-X into the final project design” and have asked for a pause in the federal review, which had been expected to be completed this month before recently being pushed to January.
“While the decision to pause the ongoing process was difficult, taking this step now avoids potentially more federal delays and we are convinced it will provide the shortest overall timeline for delivering the project as planned,” Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen said. “We intend to restart the BOEM process from where we left off as soon as we complete the final review.”
The project, which is poised to be the first utility-scale offshore wind farm in the country, is already more than a year behind schedule and a federal decision on final permitting for the project had been expected by Dec. 18 but BOEM in recent weeks pushed its target date back to Jan. 15, 2021.
“BOEM received more than 13,000 comments on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Vineyard Wind,” a spokesman for the federal agency told the News Service in an email Monday. “BOEM continues to work with cooperating agencies in the review of these comments.”
Vineyard Wind said its own review is expected to take “several weeks” but did not say when it expects the BOEM process to conclude. The company said that it has a “buffer built into the project schedule” and still expects to financially close in the second half of 2021 and to begin delivering clean wind energy to Massachusetts in 2023.
Developers of the joint venture of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables had originally planned to financially close on the project and begin on-shore construction work in 2019, put the first turbine into the seabed in 2021 and have the wind farm 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard generating electricity in 2022.
Under the revised timeline that BOEM put online in recent weeks, a federal decision on the Vineyard Wind project was expected in the final week of President Donald Trump’s administration, which Congressional lawmakers and some in the energy world have accused of being prejudiced against wind developments.
But with Vineyard Wind hitting the pause button itself, the timeline could shift later and put the final decision over the offshore wind project in the hands of a Biden administration, which many people in the wind industry expect will be more receptive to the technology.
Vineyard Wind was the first offshore wind project selected by Massachusetts utility companies with input from the Baker administration to fulfill part of a 2016 clean energy law. The second project chosen to fulfill part of that law, the Mayflower Wind project being developed by OW North America and Shell, is expected to be operational about 26 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 20 nautical miles south of Nantucket by December 2025.