Vineyard Wind LLC’s decision to push back a permitting review of the $2.8 billion offshore wind farm it plans to build near Massachusetts could delay the project by more than a year, under a ruling by the U.S. Interior Department.
The department notified the developer Friday that it now considers the project’s application to be formally withdrawn and that any future effort to restart permitting would be treated as a new application, according to a Trump administration official, who asked not to be named detailing private correspondence.
It’s a blow for the 800-megawatt project, which was set to be the first large-scale wind farm in U.S. waters. Under the Interior Department’s interpretation, any new project application would have to restart an environmental review process that could span an additional six to 18 months. That analysis, however, would still be able to draw on work done this year.
A Vineyard Wind spokesman said in an email that the company “looks forward” to working with the Interior Department once it resumes its review and didn’t address the prospect of a lengthy delay. The project, a joint venture of Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, had been expected to go into service in 2023.
The Interior Department’s ruling, which will be made formal with a notice in the government’s Federal Register, comes weeks before the agency was set to issue a final decision on approving the wind farm. The agency had been set to issue its verdict on Jan. 15.
Vineyard Wind said it expected that delaying its effort to line up permits would add “several weeks” to the project when it announced the move last week. The developer said it “temporarily” withdrew its construction and operations plan from government review as it switches to General Electric Co. turbines.
Under that timetable, the final decision would have come after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
It is not clear whether the incoming Biden administration could shift course. The decision does not affect the roughly 10 other offshore wind projects pending before Interior Department’s Bureau of Offshore Energy Management.