Vineyard Wind announces new partner for offshore wind project

A map on the Vineyard Wind website shows where the company has leased to site an offshore wind farm about 15 miles south of the Vineyard.

updated May 9, 2:45 pm

A major player in the international renewable energy market is joining the race to erect a wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

Avangrid Renewables has purchased a 50 percent stake in Vineyard Wind, one of three offshore wind companies that have federal leases for offshore wind projects.

“It means we have a great team that’s gotten even better,” Vineyard Wind CEO Erich Stephens told The Times. The company was already working with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), and now Avangrid brings its expertise in land-based turbines, he said. “Avangrid is one of the top three in the United States.”

Mr. Stephens declined to comment on the terms of the deal.

Avangrid is a subsidiary of Iberdrola Group, a company with more than 14,000 megawatts of renewable energy sites spread across a dozen countries, according to the company’s website. Avangrid’s main focus has been land-based turbines. It has 60 renewable energy projects across the country, the website states.

News of the partnership comes one week after an initial request for proposals was issued for the state’s three utilities — Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil — to purchase power from an offshore wind farm.

In 2016, the state passed legislation requiring the utilities to purchase up to 1,600 megawatts of electricity from renewables by 2027. That’s enough energy to power 750,000 homes in Massachusetts.

Last week’s launch of the RFP process sets a lengthy process in motion. Final RFPs are expected to go out at the end of June, with a contract awarded by the state Department of Public Utilities by Nov. 1, 2018. Companies are expected to file bids to generate up to 400 megawatts of electricity in the initial phase, although bids of up to 800 megawatts will be accepted if the evaluation team determines that larger-scaled proposals produce economic benefits for ratepayers.

“It’s coincidental,” Lars Thaaning Pederson, co-CEO of Copenhagen Offshore Partners, said of the timing of partnership and the RFP process. The partnership with Avangrid gives the project greater financial strength, he noted: “We have strong resources to draw on.”

The Vineyard Wind project is competing with Bay State Wind, a collaboration between DONG Energy and Eversource, and Deepwater Wind. Both companies said in separate statements released last week that they intend to be bidders.

The Vineyard Wind site is about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Because the lease area was established after a lengthy vetting process, it has faced little of the pushback that the Cape Wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound created for more than a decade.

“There was a lot of input in deciding what was the right area for offshore wind in Massachusetts,” Mr. Stephens said, nothing that Island towns, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), and other stakeholders were included in the process.

“We heard from the fishing community, and our work with them is ongoing,” he said. “By and large, the fishing community on the Vineyard and all different ports are generally OK with this area that the task force identified.”

There is a community benefits agreement with Vineyard Power, Mr. Stephens said, that helps identify issues and areas of concern that can be addressed as the development process moves forward.