Vineyard Wind gets the nod

Will build wind farm off southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

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Rep. Dylan Fernandes, left, and Richard Andre, president of Vineyard Power, a Vineyard Wind partner, at a “ribbon cutting” at Tisbury Wharf Co. for Vineyard Wind’s new operations and maintenance facility in April.
Vineyard Wind project overview map.

Updated 4 pm

Vineyard Wind, the company with local connections that has promised to stage some of its operations on-Island, has been picked by the Baker-Polito administration to build a 800-megawatt wind farm off the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

The announcement came one month to the day after the original announcement had been scheduled. Vineyard Wind beat out Bay State Wind and Deepwater Wind, which had both put in bids for wind projects — all about 15 miles off the coast of the Vineyard.

According to the press release from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the ultimate procurement of 800 megawatts is the largest single procurement of offshore wind by any state in the country.

“It’s an exciting day for sure,” Vineyard Wind chief development officer Erich Stephens said. “We were selected to enter into negotiations today.”

Asked what the decision means for the operations and maintenance terminal slated to be built at Tisbury Wharf Co., Stephens said, “It means full speed ahead. We had already started on doing some design work there.”

Tisbury Wharf owner Ralph Packer called the decision a big step in the right direction. He described the coming wind farm as a “huge, huge venture.”

Asked what may have tipped the decision in Vineyard Wind’s favor, Stephens said, “I think it was a combination of an attractive, competitive price coupled with really good relations with local communities [that] put us over the top.”

The Baker-Polito Administration gave more detail on the subject. “The Vineyard Wind bid was selected for contract negotiation based on criteria established under a Request for Proposals (RFP) previously subject to public comment, and reviewed and approved by the Department of Public Utilities,” the administration said in a statement. “Criteria used in the evaluation of the bids included an economic evaluation of the benefits for ratepayers, the project’s ability to foster employment and economic development in the Commonwealth, and the project’s environmental impacts and the extent to which a project demonstrates that it avoids or mitigates impacts to natural resources and tourism. As a result of a stringent review, Vineyard Wind was determined to provide the greatest overall value to Massachusetts customers by delivering approximately 800 MW of offshore wind capacity per year while providing substantial ratepayer benefits.”

Stephens praised Island energy company Vineyard Power. “They’re the ones that introduced us to the Packers,” he said. Vineyard Power is a development partner. Their local knowledge Stephens described as “indispensable.”

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Tisbury selectman Melinda Loberg had not yet heard the news. “That is so great, I am very happy and excited for them,” she said. “We are the harbor on the Vineyard that operates year-round, so it makes sense that they would locate in Tisbury.”

Selectman Jim Rogers said the construction phase will also help the local economy. “There are people who are going to come here who work for the company. They are going to be using Island services, buying meals, and promoting the local economy.”

The prospect of job creation will help the Island’s year-round economy, Loberg said. “There will be a new program at the high school that will teach kids how to do initial operation and maintenance,” she said.

It could also have other economic impacts, she said. “People will be curious about the wind farms, so I think we will see some added tourism as a result.”

Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avengrid Renewables, Vineyard Wind’s backers, also received praise from Stephens. “They’ve brought a lot to the table, for sure,” most notably experience, he said.

Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners helped create offshore wind in Denmark, he said. Avengrid Renewables is the No. 2 land-based wind provider in the nation, he said. Its parent company, Iberdrola, is the “world’s largest wind and solar energy company,” he said.

Stephens said unlike the other competitors, Vineyard Wind doesn’t plan to store the energy it produces in concentration areas, but rather as batteries spread out across the Vineyard and in other communities, where they can be utilized by emergency managers in times of need, he said. “We thought it a better value,” he said.

The transmission line from the wind farm will come ashore in Yarmouth or Barnstable. Vineyard Wind has taken heat in those communities because locals fear the line may create pollution. An Eversource transmission line in Somerville released dielectric oil into the Mystic River earlier this month, according to several Coast Guard releases. Stephens said the Vineyard Wind line won’t contain liquids or fluids. “Our transmission line will be solid-construction line,” he said.

A land-based substation located next to an existing Eversource substation will have a fluid inside, but heavy precautions will be taken to ensure there isn’t ever a leak by building a “sort of a giant bathtub under the entire substation,” he said. “Dielectric fluid is not nearly as toxic as some have made it out to be, [but] we do realize the Cape has a sandy geology.”

Asked when construction would begin, Stephens said, “The first thing we would start on is some of the cable work in 2020.” Offshore work would start later, in 2020–21, he said.

When asked how he felt overall about the announcement Vineyard Wind was the successful bidder for the offshore lease, Stephens said he felt “excited and optimistic,” and was “looking forward to getting to work.”

Bay State Wind expressed its regrets in a statement late Wednesday afternoon. “We’re disappointed by today’s decision by the Massachusetts evaluation team,” Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America, and Lee Olivier, Eversource executive vice president of enterprise energy strategy and business development, emailed jointly. Eversource was one of the partners in the venture. “We made a compelling offer to help the commonwealth meet its ambitious clean energy goals while maintaining strong financial discipline. Further, our proposal to interconnect our project into the former Brayton Point facility in Somerset, Massachusetts, would ensure clean energy delivery into one of the strongest connections on New England’s electrical grid. We remain fully committed to our Bay State Wind partnership, as together we pursue future solicitations in New England and New York.”

No comment from Deepwater Wind was available by press time.

Updated to add comments from selectmen in Tisbury and Erich Stephens. – Ed.

Lucas Thors contributed to this report.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been involved in a lot of large utility scale wind development around the country since 2005. Drove along I70 on my way to Colorado this winter and went thru one of the largest wind farms I have ever seen on the north side of the highway. It ran for over 30 miles and the project is still growing. I was astonished at how distracting and miserable it was to see all those FAA lights blinking as far as I could see.
    Any vessel at night in this area south of the Island will have a very rude awakening, distracting enough to perhaps be a hazard to navigation. If you haven’t experienced this yet you undoubtedly will under estimate this effect.
    I am a huge proponent of land based wind farms in the windy and remote parts of the country. Massive infrastructure would be required to upgrade the transmission system to move the power to the load centers/cities. Land based wind is an order of magnitude less expensive than offshore wind which translates to essentially 1/10th the electric price for the power. Think 2.5¢/kw vs 20.0¢/kw for offshore wind. The economics don’t work but the marketing does.
    This is not a good deal or a smart one.
    I applaud the effort Richard but I have been consistent in my view. There is a better way. The tax payers and the rate payers will end up with the short end of this stick by a wide margin.
    If you ply these waters at night, unless they turn all the lights off, which they won’t/can’t it’s going to be downright awful.
    Mike Marcus, West Tisbury

    • Two things to update: The cost for this energy is well below the 20 cents you suggest, and the FAA lights are requested to be turned on when there is an airplane in the area low enough to be relevant. Since the nearest land is 13 nautical miles away, there are very few times when the FAA lights would have to be on.
      Land based wind is cheaper where there is ample available land. New England does not have that kind potential within the reach of transmission lines. Most New England electricity now comes from gas brought from outside the region, through pipelines.

      • Good to know on the FAA lighting. Hopefully you are correct. I’m not aware of the other lighting requirements they may have.
        The greatest wind resource in this country stretches from TX up thru the Dakotas. Ample supply for all domestic energy consumption. It does require massive transmission build out. The wind resource in New England is meager other than offshore http://www.windustry.org/news/wind-resource-maps-and-estimates-show-increased-potential-united-states
        Wind energy cost is competitive with other generation costs unsubsidized in these areas. I have not heard of a number ‘well below’ $.20/kw for this project. Utility scale wind gets developed around the country and the contract price ranges from $.025-$.06/kw. https://www.awea.org/falling-wind-energy-costs . That is a huge difference.
        The windiest parts of the US are expansive and predominantly devoid or people or development, and it extends across the border into Alberta and Saskatchewan. It is an amazing untapped energy resource and the production cost would be very very low. It would also generate tremendous value to the farmers and communities in those areas.
        As a rule of thumb we never sited a project within 50 miles of a Starbucks. Any community where someone would pay $4-$5 for a coffee would fight wind. Having just driven through Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, N Dakota and S Dakota I can assure you there are very few Starbucks.
        This project is going to cost too much, the price of its power will be too high. And even if it gets done the needs of the country demand the development of this resource in the windy ‘bread basket’ of the Country. That’s my opinion of the ‘better way’.

    • I think this a a great deal and a long time coming. Wind power and renewables in general, have shown to stabilize prices where there is good penetration onto the grid. If you think a few blinking lights will be a dangerous distraction to navigation well I have a few lighthouses to show you!! Ha! 🙂

      Tell us what “better way” you speak of. I think awful is the continuous burning of fossil fuels to power the grid. Electricity generated by renewables is the future of energy. It’s time to move forward.

  2. Just wonderful!! Wind power is a no brainer, especially here in one of the windiest places in the USA. That it’s taken so long to actually get it done is surprising. There are whole countries in Europe who have full days powered only by wind power. Renewable energy is the energy of the future. Good job all around!

  3. Now we see from today’s stories about the corruption surrounding this form of legalized robbery from taxpayers and ratepayers. It is a sad commentary how money transcends all political ideologies. Our supposedly conservative governor was just as easy to buy as Deval Patrick. These offshore wind projects are a true gold mine for the so-called entrepreneurs who put in the time and effort to cash in. Vineyard Wind is a great case study in how to make money while pretending to do good. If they were really committed to creating environmental and climate change benefits, they would be pushing for some of the huge subsidy dollars to go to energy efficiency measures. Insulation and efficient appliances for older, poorer people, better control technology for industry and commercial buildings, and similar strategies will do more good for less cost and unlike wind power, do not have massive external impacts that create still more costs for managing the grid stability with backup gas turbine generation.
    Wind projects are big and concentrated multibillion corporate ventures so much easier to cash in and get rich than decentralized conservation efforts. So congratulations Vineyard Power in scamming the system as a “local” partner of the giant foreign corporations who will steal our ocean resources and our tax and rate dollars.

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