The Department of the Interior has confirmed that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed the environmental analysis of the proposed Vineyard Wind I offshore wind project
Vineyard Wind is proposing what is expected to be the first project developed in their lease area, an 800-MW project offshore Massachusetts. The proposed project would be located approximately 12 nautical miles offshore Martha’s Vineyard and 12 nautical miles offshore Nantucket in the northern portion of Vineyard Wind’s lease area. If approved, it would be the first commercial scale offshore wind project in the US.
The Department described completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) as ‘major progress’ in the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to accelerate development of renewable energy on public lands and waters as a key component of tackling the climate crisis and creating jobs. It is the penultimate step in the federal permitting process for the Vineyard Wind 1 project.
Principal deputy assistant secretary – land and minerals management Laura Daniel Davis said, “The US is poised to become a global clean energy leader. To realise the full environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind, we must work together to ensure all potential development is advanced with robust stakeholder outreach and scientific integrity.”
BOEM director Amanda Lefton said the process “provides an opportunity for us to work with Tribal nations, communities, and other ocean users to ensure all decisions are transparent and utilise the best available science.
“We appreciate everyone’s participation in the process and look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders on the future analysis of offshore wind projects.”
Later this week, BOEM will publish a Notice of Availability for the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the Federal Register, which analyses the potential environmental impacts of making a decision on Vineyard Wind’s construction and operation plan.
On 12 June 2020, as a result of comments received during the National Environmental Policy Act process and in co-ordination with co-operating agencies, the draft EIS was supplemented with additional analysis.
Additional areas of analysis included reasonably foreseeable effects from an expanded cumulative activities scenario for offshore wind development, previously unavailable fishing data, a new transit lane alternative, and changes since the publication of the Draft EIS to the proposed project.
Following a 45-day comment period and five virtual public meetings, BOEM incorporated comments received on the Draft EIS and the supplemental analysis into the Final EIS.
BOEM said it is working with the appropriate parties to finalise the Section 106 process, consistent with the National Historic Preservation Act, and to issue a record of decision whether to approve, disapprove, or approve with modifications the proposed project. The US Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service will sign the joint record of decision for their respective authorisation decisions.
Responding, Vineyard Wind chief executive Lars T Pedersen said, “We want to thank BOEM for all of the work they’ve done since we submitted the permit application in December 2017 on this first-in-the-nation project.
“More than three years of federal review and public comment is nearing its conclusion and 2021 is poised to be a momentous year for our project and the broader offshore wind industry.
“Offshore wind is a historic opportunity to build a new industry that will lead to the creation of thousands of jobs, reduce electricity rates for consumers and contribute significantly to limiting the impacts of climate change. We look forward to reaching the final step in the federal permitting process and being able to launch an industry that has such tremendous potential for economic development in communities up and down the eastern seaboard.”
The origins for the Vineyard Wind 1 project date back to 2009, when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and BOEM began a stakeholder process to identify offshore wind energy areas south of Martha’s Vineyard. Following that process, Vineyard Wind was awarded a lease area in a competitive auction held by BOEM in 2015, submitted its state and federal permit applications in 2017 and subsequently won the first large-scale offshore wind contract in a competitive procurement in Massachusetts in 2018.
The Vineyard Wind 1 project has already received all relevant permits required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as regional and local bodies.
Vineyard Wind said it expects to reach financial close in the second half of 2021 and begin delivering clean energy to Massachusetts in 2023.
Also responding to the announcement, the Business Network for Offshore Wind said, “The US offshore wind industry has taken a monumental step forward following the announcement from BOEM on the final environmental impact statement for the Vineyard Wind Project.
“The decision approves the installation and operation of 84 offshore wind turbines arranged in a north-south and east-west orientation, with a minimum spacing of one nautical mile between them.
“This decision puts the first US commercial-scale project only a small step away from beginning construction. BOEM’s action also brings a sorely needed regulatory decision for investors and re-positions the US as a player in the trillion-dollar global offshore wind industry.
Business Network for Offshore Wind president and chief executive Liz Burdock said, “This is the day the US offshore wind industry has been anxiously awaiting for years. The announcement provides the regulatory green light the industry needs to attract investment and move projects forward.
“BOEM must continue to consider the unique characteristics of each wind energy area and move the 10 other projects through the permitting process. The US can’t be one and done, otherwise, we cannot compete with the explosive growth currently seen in Asian and European markets.
“For the US to fully achieve the environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind, we must move to localize the supply chain in America. Done right, that means new orders for manufacturers, well-paying jobs for welders and engineers and renewed shipyard activity across the US.”