Vineyard Gazette: “President Trump Expands Wind Leases Off Martha’s Vineyard”
By Julia Wells, April 9, 2018 –
The Trump administration will expand wind energy leases off Martha’s Vineyard, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior announced Friday.
In a press release, Secretary Ryan Zinke said two more areas off Massachusetts totaling some 390,000 acres would go up for sale for future commercial wind farms. The lease area lies near a 300,000-acre swath of wind-rich deepwater ocean already designated for commercial wind farms, roughly 15 to 25 miles south of the Vineyard.
No wind farms have been built yet off Massachusetts, but a high-stakes business race is on as well-funded developers work their way through a dense bureaucratic process of permitting at the state and federal level. Construction could begin by 2019 and run through 2022.
The next key date in the permitting process is April 23, when bid winners will be announced for state-mandated energy contracts with utility providers. Tied to a 2016 law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker requiring state utility companies to buy 1,600 megawatts of power from alternative energy sources in the next decade, the energy contracts are critical for wind developers since they provide a way for wind farms to transmit electricity to consumers via the grid.
To date, three developers have been awarded leases to build utility-scale wind farms off the Vineyard: Vineyard Wind, Deepwater Wind and Baystate Wind.
Vineyard Wind is a partnership between Vineyard Power, the Island energy cooperative, and the Danish company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, which has an offshore wind development arm.
Deepwater Wind, based in Providence, R.I., has already launched the country’s first offshore wind farm off Block Island.
Bay State Wind is a partnership between Orsted (formerly Danish Oil and Natural Gas) and Eversource.
All three are in the running to receive energy contracts in two weeks. Up to two contracts are expected to be awarded. As the only developer with a so-called community benefits package that promises Island employment and millions in community investments, Vineyard Wind is hoping for a leg up in the process and won an editorial endorsement last week from the Cape Cod Times.
For the new offshore leases, a notice of sale through the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will be published in the Federal Register on April 11 and will include a 60-day public comment period.
The new leases are part of President Trump’s America-first offshore energy strategy, the Interior Department said.
Industrial offshore wind farms have sparked environmental concerns from fishermen and mariners who worry that the farms will disrupt fishing and habitat and impede navigation in shipping lanes.
Reprinted via Vineyard Gazette, which is not affiliated with the Alliance.