U.S. Achieves Milestone With First Large Offshore Wind Farm, Vineyard Wind 1

On January 2, the first large-scale project in the United States, Vineyard Wind 1, provided the first power to the Massachusetts grid, marking a significant milestone for the offshore wind sector. Ken Kimmell, Chief Development Officer with Avangrid, the Iberdrola subsidiary that is co-developing the assignment with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), informed Reuters Events that as the nation’s first-ever utility-scale offshore wind farm, this is a momentous event.

Per Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller, the 5 MW turbine will be combined with 61 more turbines to give 806 MW of power to the grid by the end of this year, which is enough to power 400,000 houses and businesses. Per Moeller, six of the 62 turbines are finished, connected to cables, and prepared for use as soon as they receive approval. After a challenging year, the turbine connection is good news for American offshore wind, as it unlocks a new tab. Developers had to cancel offtake contracts with East Coast governments, reschedule projects, and write down investments worth billions of dollars due to rising prices, supply chain delays, and high credit rates.

Offshore Wind Farm
Representation Image

Vineyard Wind’s lessons will benefit other developers, and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act’s tax credits will improve the economics of upcoming projects. However, for the United States to meet Biden’s 2030 target of 30 GW offshore wind, infrastructure investments and regulatory changes must be sped up. While Kimmel anticipates that the United States installation vessels will be developed in time for upcoming offshore wind projects, vessel investments are lagging per project schedules. Per Sanjay Patnaik, a fellow associated with the Brookings Institution think tank, expedited permitting procedures must be carried out, as reported by Reuters Events.

Located 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Vineyard Wind 1 is one of several projects under construction in nearby lease areas, including the Avangrid and CIP-planned Vineyard Northeast Wind project. Vineyard Wind 1 will soon be followed by the neighbouring 132 MW South Fork Wind project, owned by Orsted and U.S. utility Eversource and scheduled to be finished this year. Vineyard Wind 1 is an offshore wind farm, 30 MW in size, that Orsted built off the Rhode Island coast in 2016.

Due to the lack of a unique wind turbine installation vessel and the need to adhere to federal regulations, Vineyard Wind had to ship its equipment from New Bedford, Massachusetts, via barges to foreign-flagged installation vessels anchored offshore. The Jones Act requires developers to use American-made vessels to transport items into and out of U.S. ports. Using barges to transport components instead of loading up the installation vessels on the quayside further complicates the logistics and increases the project costs. Installers have to tackle critical weather conditions in the waters of open seas. Urgent investments are needed in the matter of the U.S. installation of vessels. Utility Dominion Energy reportedly has commissioned the first-ever Jones Act-compliant installation vessel. However, up to six vessels may be needed to facilitate the installation of 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030, and it takes about three to five years to build a new vessel.

A lack of investment in U.S. factories indicates that Vineyard Wind 1 and other early offshore wind assignments have had to source most of their components from Europe, exposing them to global market pressures.
The supply situation is also improving, Moeller informed, noting Prysmian’s first U.S. cable production factory planned in Massachusetts and other facilities like EEW’s first monopile factory in New Jersey, but far more investments are needed. Suppliers also seek transparency over future project timelines before committing significant investments to respective factories.

Offshore wind assignments can encounter opposition from the residents, fishing associations, and environmental groups, requiring iterations to project development plans. Vineyard Wind planned to route the undersea cable to land in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, but upon encountering opposition, it shifted the landing site to Barnstable. Cables had been buried beneath the seafloor and the beach, and the developer is providing property tax payments and broader infrastructure enhancements to the local community.

The project took three years to achieve its due environmental approval as it tackled never-before issues for large-scale offshore wind development. In 2018, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (abbreviated the BOEM) expanded the review scope to consider earlier unavailable fishing data, a transit lane alternative, more extensive turbine considerations, and cumulative risks from several offshore wind projects.

These learnings from allowing Vineyard Wind should help other offshore wind assignments and BOEM plans on reducing the timelines and opening a new tab for environmental reviews. The bureau has set out proposals for streamlining streamlined federal survey procedures and increasing the design flexibility but has not yet issued a final ruling, and rapid implementation is required to aid projects looking to be available online before 2030. Massachusetts is working on establishing a joint approach with many federal agencies. Kimmel explained that without massive reforms, projects would be held back by the permits required at national, local, regional, and state levels.

Reference: Reuters

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