NEW BEDFORD – Vineyard Wind on Monday asked the federal agency responsible for the project’s permitting to resume its review after the company withdrew a key plan in December.
On Dec. 1, 2020, Vineyard Wind sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) stating it was withdrawing its construction and operations plan from agency review to allow for internal technical review of the project’s new wind turbine, the General Electric Haliade-X.
Lars T. Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, said during a press conference Monday that because the company did not make any changes to its plan, he expects BOEM to pick up where it left off in the review process.
“Since there are no changes required to the COP, we expect that BOEM can finalize their review based on the extensive analysis and studies of the project over the last three years,” he said.
Vineyard Wind planned to use turbines from another company, but the original supply contract expired, said Vineyard Wind spokesperson Andrew Doba.
Pedersen said the company needed time to review whether the new turbines would remain within project parameters as it relates to foundation construction and staging out of the Port of New Bedford, among other logistical considerations.
Although Pedersen and Vineyard Wind called the December decision a “temporary withdrawal,” BOEM used stronger language when it issued a notice on Dec. 16, 2020 stating the project review was terminated and that there was no longer a decision pending before the agency.
In December, a BOEM spokesperson did not say whether Vineyard Wind’s action would cause any delays to the permitting process, or whether the review would pick up from where it stopped.
On Monday, the spokesperson said BOEM did not have a comment at this time.
If BOEM decides to resume from where they left off and issue final permits in the first half of 2021, Pedersen said they expect to keep the project on track with financial close in 2021, offshore construction in 2022, installation of the turbines in 2023 and power to the grid in late 2023.
“In our opinion, all the data is there for BOEM to make a decision,” Pedersen said. “There is precedent that other projects have had a similar process and there is precedent, in our view, for this resuming.”
The project faced delays under the Trump administration, which ordered further impact analysis in 2019, but many believe the Biden administration will be more supportive of offshore wind development.
President Joe Biden’s campaign website published a plan for a “clean energy revolution” that includes establishing programs to develop renewables on federal lands and waters.
The plan also lists the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030 and forecasts wind turbine technicians as being among the fastest growing occupations through 2026.
When asked about offshore wind prospects under the Biden administration, Pedersen said he sees new leadership as being favorable to renewable energy.
“We were in detailed contact with the two campaigns prior to the election. Of course we have had initial indications from the Biden team in general that they’re favorable to renewable energy,” he said. “At least our overall understanding is that they wish to see renewable energy moving forward and also offshore wind as part of that plan.”
Citing the delays in 2019, which had a “huge impact” on the Vineyard Wind project, Pedersen said the new administration can hopefully streamline the permitting process.
He said a review process that “should have” taken two years has instead taken three. To make the process “smoother” going forward, he said perhaps the review of new projects could use some previous analyses instead of starting from scratch.
The 800-megawatt project will be located 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Vineyard Wind estimates it will power more than 400,000 homes and reduce carbon emissions by more than 1.6 million tons per year.
The company signed a lease agreement in late 2018 to utilize the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal as the primary staging and deployment base for construction and installation. The lease was originally scheduled to start Dec. 1, 2020, but due to the delays in permitting, the revised agreement commits the terminal to full-time offshore wind work starting in 2023.
Before Vineyard Wind withdrew its plan, BOEM expected to issue a final decision on the project on Jan. 15 – a delay from the previous date of Dec. 18, 2020.
As of Jan. 25, BOEM’s webpage for Vineyard Wind states, “BOEM is not actively reviewing Vineyard Wind’s application right now… Vineyard Wind is welcome to submit a new Construction and Operations Plan, at which time BOEM will begin an appropriate environmental and technical review.”
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