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.