Deadline arrives for wind farm bids

Bay State, Deepwater, and Vineyard Wind now wait until April to learn who will get to build.

Earlier this summer Vineyard Wind had a boat working out of Vineyard Haven to collect data. - Stacey Rupolo

Wednesday marked the deadline for a trio of bidders to submit packages detailing their proposals to construct a wind farm in the Atlantic, about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, and generate 400 or more megawatts of power.

Bay State Wind, Deepwater Wind, and Vineyard Wind must now wait until April 23 to find out which of them has been selected.

Utility companies Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil will evaluate the bids and make a determination. Peregrine Energy Group, with coordination from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), will monitor the evaluation process, and the Attorney General’s office will vet the results.

Eversource and National Grid each have an interest in two separate bidders. It’s unclear how they will manage the apparent conflict of evaluating the request for proposals (RFPs) they have a stake in, but third parties will also have a say.

All three bidders plan to stage the construction of their wind farms from the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, a facility run by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Bay State Wind is a partnership between Eversource and Orsted Energy, a Danish company.

“Bay State Wind is the most experienced, dependable partner to help Massachusetts realize its ambitions of becoming the hub for offshore wind development in North America,” Orsted president for North America Thomas Brostrom said in a press release. “The partnership between Orsted and Eversource brings together local experience, international expertise, and unbeatable financial strength. This project is poised to be the most technologically advanced offshore wind farm, providing energy at the lowest cost to consumers, all while bringing significant environmental and community benefits.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Brostrom told The Times that Bay State Wind plans to send the wind electricity it generates to Somerset for distribution from the power station there. The company also plans to install giant batteries in that vicinity to store energy (55-megawatt capacity) in off-peak hours and send it into the system when need spikes, he said. Bay State Wind plans to make Martha’s Vineyard its base for helicopter operations, he said. To that end, the company will likely build a helipad somewhere on the Island.

“We are confident that this bid represents the commonwealth’s strongest opportunity to meet its clean energy goals and lead the country in offshore wind development,” Eversource vice president of business development Mike Auseré said in a press release. “By capturing New England’s powerful and consistent offshore wind resource through the most advanced generation and transmission technology, we can provide clean electricity directly to the region. Additionally, Massachusetts will see major new investment, job creation, and an increase in tax revenues to support public services.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Auseré said the deep pockets of Bay State Wind’s owners — constituting approximately $40 billion in capital — will allow for complete self-financing of the project.

Deepwater Wind already has a local track record for a wind farm. It boasts the nation’s first and only operating offshore wind farm off Block Island, a project it executed with National Grid. Deepwater Wind aims to partner up with National Grid once more, and develop a unique “offshore transmission backbone.” In a telephone interview, Massachusetts Deepwater Wind vice president Matt Morrissey said this will essentially be an electrical corridor overbuilt in anticipation of channeling the 1,600 megawatts of wind-generated electricity that will ultimately come from the area. “We believe we have an obligation to innovate and take some risk,” he said.

Revolution Wind, the brand name for Deepwater Wind’s proposed wind farm, also plans to supply energy to FirstLight Power Resources, a company that runs hydroelectric facilities at Northfield Mountain. The energy Revolution Wind plans to send will power pumps that channel water uphill, where it can be stored and later released via gravity to power dynamos when need peaks. The arrangement would be the first of its kind, Mr. Morrissey said.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Deepwater Wind and National Grid to help Massachusetts reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach its environmental goals,” FirstLight Power Resources senior executive John Shue said in a press release. “Northfield Mountain, New England’s largest source of green energy storage, can store wind energy when demand is at its lowest and deliver it back to the commonwealth’s consumers when it’s needed most. Pairing clean energy storage at Northfield Mountain with offshore wind energy will ensure that the people of Massachusetts capture the greatest environmental benefit they can, in the most efficient manner possible.”

Vineyard Wind is a joint venture of Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Of the three bidders, it is the only entity not affiliated with an evaluator of bid packages. The company appears most vested in Martha’s Vineyard. The company has proposed an operation and maintenance facility for Vineyard Haven, and a local education program slated to train Islanders in electromechanical aspects of wind turbines, so they may one day join the technical crews servicing them. The company has also partnered with Vineyard Power to provide emergency electricity storage across the Island.

According to Richard Andre, president of Vineyard Power, the company will partner with Joe Kennedy’s Citizens Energy to manage an Affordability and Resilience Fund. This fund will receive $1 million a year over 15 years from Vineyard Wind. On-Island, it will provide for such things as solar-powered batteries for critical services like shelters, Mr Andre said.

“Vineyard Wind is confident that its proposal to start building Massachusetts’ first offshore wind project in 2019 is the right approach for local residents and businesses eager to reap the abundant environmental and economic benefits that are associated with large-scale renewable and sustainable wind energy,” Erich Stephens, chief development officer of Vineyard Wind, said in a press release.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Stephens said Vineyard Wind is ahead of the game, having already submitted federal and state permits. He also said the company applied for both 400 and 800 megawatts, in order to make its application more likely to succeed.

“The clean energy bid submission in tandem with the state and federal permit filings bring Vineyard Wind one step closer toward building Massachusetts’ first offshore wind project, a facility that will serve as an accelerator for the local clean energy economy and green tech workforce,” said Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, in a press release.

“Today marks a historic day for the future offshore renewable energy industry in Massachusetts, and Vineyard Wind is the one project poised to quickly deliver clean wind power resources to cities and towns across the state,” said Laura Beane, Avangrid Renewables’ CEO, in a press release. “We’ve enjoyed helping revitalize and grow rural America by bringing jobs and economic development dollars into local communities through our onshore renewable energy projects. With this large-scale offshore project, we look forward to pouring valuable economic development dollars into multiple sectors of the Massachusetts economy, and putting people to work immediately.”

Asked how Eversource will manage the patent conflict the bid process creates, Mr. Auseré said the heavy observation RFP evaluation will undergo will safeguard the process.

“The process is going to be very closely scrutinized,” Deepwater Wind’s Mr. Morrissey said.

The attorney general’s office successfully pushed for a third-party evaluator for the process, and then assisted in the development of the RFP along with the Department of Energy Resources and the evaluator, Peregrine Energy Group, according to AG spokesman Chloe Gotsis. The AG’s office will scrutinize the winning bid as well as the steps taken to arrive at the selection, she said.

The energy diversification legislation passed last summer states that the electric distribution companies are the soliciting partners for 1,600 MW of offshore wind. DOER and the attorney general’s office have fulfilled the legislation’s requirement to select an Independent Evaluator to ensure that the solicitation process is open, fair, and transparent, and is not unduly influenced by an affiliated company,” Katie Gronendyke, spokesman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said.