UPDATE August 13, 2019: Vineyard Wind announced on Monday that shareholders affirmed their support for the first large-scale U.S. offshore wind project, despite the delay of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
Shareholders will revise the project based on a public statement issued on Friday by the Secretary of the Interior, as the original timeline will not be feasible.
- Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has ordered additional study for the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project, to the "surprise and disappointment" of the developer.
- The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is extending the mandatory environmental review of the 800-MW proposed project off the coast of Massachusetts, Bernhardt told Bloomberg News on Friday. BOEM will also expand its analysis of other large offshore wind plans for the East Coast.
- The $2.8 billion project "remains viable and continues to move forward," Vineyard Wind said in a statement. The first phase of the project was supposed to come online in late 2019.
Further delay on Vineyard Wind could impact an additional revenue stream for the project. The clean energy investment tax credit, which is integral to financing the project, will not be available for projects that start construction after the end of 2019.
BOEM needs to complete its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) within two years of a developer's submission of its Construction and Operations Plan (COP).
"For Vineyard Wind, that is March 2020. That being said, we are focusing on the supplemental EIS, and not yet prepared to set a schedule for the Final EIS," Tracey Blythe Moriarty, BOEM's Office of Public Affairs deputy chief, said in an e-mail.
Vineyard Wind is the first large-scale offshore wind project expected online in the U.S., where the technology remains in the nascent stages of deployment. Other large projects are expected in the next 5 years off the coasts of Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and more.
As East Coast states continue announcing offshore wind procurements and stakeholders for the Vineyard Wind project request more analysis, "BOEM is expanding its cumulative analysis of projects within its draft [EIS] to also include projects that have been awarded power purchase agreements, but may not have submitted [COPs], and potential scenarios based on state procurements that are expected to be awarded," Moriarty said.
Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist who had served under former Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, has met with Vineyard Wind and with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, R, in recent weeks regarding the project.
The Interior Department did not respond to requests for comment regarding the delay.
Vineyard Wind expected BOEM approval for a final EIS by July 12. The project developers previously said the final federal environmental study needs to be issued by early September for the project to advance under its current financing.
"While we appreciate that the discussion on cumulative impacts is driven by rapid growth of the industry beyond our project, we urge the federal government to complete the review of Vineyard Wind 1 as quickly as possible," the company said in a statement.