Interior moves closer to decision on Cape Wind
- The Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued a final supplement to the environmental impact statement (SEIS) of Massachusetts' 468 MW Cape Wind offshore wind project last week in response to a 2016 D.C. Circuit order. The release of the final SEIS came after a two-year suspension of the lease expired in July.
- The court order vacated the project's final SEIS, initially released in 2009, saying the agency couldn't guarantee that the seafloor could support the wind turbines.The updated SEIS addressed the court's demand for more geological surveys before the project could move forward.
- The final SEIS does not impact the project's lease agreement, with a decision on whether the project will move forward expected at the beginning of September.
The Cape Wind project in the Nantucket Sound was the flagship offshore wind project for many years, and its hurdles sprouted doubts about whether offshore wind could ever gain traction.
First conceived in 2001, the 468 MW project has been in some state of limbo ever since as legal challenges, primarily from the Koch brothers, continued to dog the developers and delay installation. Utilities also terminated their power purchase agreements in 2015, which would have covered more than 77% of the project's output, citing failure to meet contractual milestones as a primary factor.
BOEM suspended the operation terms of Cape Wind's commercial lease also in 2015 so the developer could address the legal and funding challenges.
An order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacating the BOEM's final SEIS issued in 2009, prompted the agency to draft another supplement.
Following the successful completion of the United States' first offshore wind farm, the 30 MW Block Island project, it appears Cape Wind could gain enough traction to hit the finish the line. However, the project is outside the scope of Massachusetts' 1,600 MW offshore wind target signed into law last year by Gov. Charlie Baker (R).
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound says the updated final SEIS left the lease in place, ignoring requests that it be terminated. The group also noted that the project technology is outdated, the state transmission permits have been denied and there is a lack of funding for the project.
However, a spokesman for BOEM told Utility Dive the issuance of the SEIS is not a decision about whether the project can move forward, and the agency will make a decision on the lease after the 30-day comment period wraps up in September.
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