In what Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind calls “the day the U.S. offshore wind industry has been anxiously awaiting for years,” the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed the environmental analysis of the proposed Vineyard Wind I offshore wind project.
“Today’s announcement provides the regulatory greenlight the industry needs to attract investments and move projects forward,” says Burdock. “Now, BOEM must continue to consider the unique characteristics of each Wind Energy Area and move the 10 other projects through the permitting process. The U.S. can’t be one and done; otherwise, we cannot compete with the explosive growth currently seen in Asian and European markets. For the U.S. to fully achieve environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind, we must move to localize the supply chain in America and train businesses on industry supply chain needs. Done right, that means new orders for manufacturers, well-paying jobs for welders and engineers, and renewed shipyard activity across the U.S.”
The news follows the earlier announcement that BOEM would resume its review, which had been paused at the request of Vineyard Wind as it reviewed whether the use of GE’s giant Haliade-X turbines warranted any modifications to its Construction and Operation Plan (COP).
“Today is a great day for the Jones Act industry,” says Aaron Smith, president and CEO of the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA). “Finally, there are signs the long-promised potential of U.S. offshore wind is moving to a steel-in-the-water reality. We look forward to working with our good friends at Vineyard Wind to maximize the percentage of U.S. vessels and mariners that are utilized on this project.”
Vineyard Wind, a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of Avangid Inc., and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), is proposing what is expected to be the first project developed in its lease area, an 800-megawatt wind energy 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 United States.
“Offshore energy development provides an opportunity for us to work with Tribal nations, communities, and other ocean users to ensure all decisions are transparent and utilize the best available science,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “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 analyzes the potential environmental impacts of making a decision on Vineyard Wind’s Construction and Operation Plan.
On June 12, 2020, as a result of comments received during the National Environmental Policy Act process and in coordination with cooperating 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 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 is working with the appropriate parties to finalize 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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service will sign this joint record of decision for their respective authorization decisions.
The Final Environment Impact Statement is available at https://www.boem.gov/vineyard-wind.