NEW BEDFORD – The federal agency standing between the Vineyard Wind project and its fruition is resuming its environmental review of the offshore wind farm. The agency previously terminated its review last December when the company withdrew a key plan.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a statement Wednesday announcing it is resuming the review “in support of the Biden administration’s goal to address climate change and promote offshore renewable energy production.”
“Offshore wind has the potential to help our nation combat climate change, improve resilience through reliable power, and spur economic development to create good-paying jobs,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “BOEM is committed to conducting a robust and timely review of the proposed project.”
President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 27, titled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” which includes the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030 – an action that delivers on his campaign promise.
His campaign climate plan notably forecasted wind turbine technicians as being among the fastest growing occupations through 2026.
“We’re very pleased that BOEM has decided to move forward with the permitting process for our Vineyard Wind 1 project,” said a Vineyard Wind spokesperson in an email to the Standard-Times. “We look forward to working with the agency as we launch an industry that will create thousands of good paying jobs while also taking meaningful steps to reduce the impact of climate change.”
After completing its environmental review, BOEM will develop a final environmental impact statement, according to the agency. BOEM previously planned to issue a final decision on Jan. 15.
In early December, Vineyard Wind announced it was going to use GE Renewable Energy as its new supplier of wind turbines. Vineyard Wind CEO Lars T. Pedersen said because of this change, they decided to withdraw the construction and operations plan so that they could conduct an internal review to ensure the new turbines would work with the project.
In response – and in the final weeks of the Trump administration – BOEM terminated its review of the project.
Last week, Vineyard Wind said it completed its internal review and did not make any changes to the plan. As a result, Pedersen asked BOEM to resume its review.
The CEO expressed optimism, saying last week he believed BOEM would pick up where it left off in its review process. He said if the agency resumes from the same place, which it has, then he expects to financially close in 2021, begin offshore construction in 2022, install turbines in 2023 and deliver power to the grid in late 2023.
Kathleen Theoharides, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said BOEM’s decision was “great news” for climate change and jobs.
“We’re glad to see this decision from the Biden administration and look forward to continuing to work with them on permitting these types of clean, renewable energy projects,” she said.
In December 2020, the Baker-Polito administration released two plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Theoharides has said achieving clean energy in Massachusetts will be anchored by a “significant” offshore wind resource.
Vineyard Wind is an 800-megawatt project and the secretary said 15 gigawatts of offshore power is needed to reach the state’s 2050 goals. She said she expects this project, the 800-megawatt Mayflower Wind project and a hydropower project to be built, deployed and operating in this decade.
She said a third offshore wind procurement for the state should happen this year, but does not know where it would be located. By 2030, the state would need to start getting 1 gigawatt (which is 1,000 megawatts) of clean energy online each year to achieve its goals, she said.
“Getting this project done and getting it through the permitting process means a lot to all of the other projects that are in the queue,” Theoharides said.
Vineyard Wind will be located 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The company 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 lease will begin in 2023.
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