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CT company's large offshore wind farm moves one step closer to Martha's Vineyard coast

  • Mar 10, 2021
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Source: 
Hour

Mar. 10—Federal regulators signed off on an environmental review of the Vineyard Wind turbine farm, which would be the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S.

Orange-based Avangrid, the co-developer of Vineyard Wind, indicated Monday it expects the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to issue a final "record of decision" within a month, at which point it will be ready to begin preparations for construction of wind turbines 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard.

The company projects it will support 3,600 "job years," as it describes it, including through the hiring of outside contractors.

While Vineyard Wind electricity will be fed to Massachusetts utility customers, providing 800 megawatts of power — sufficient for 400,000 homes — the wind farm will lessen New England's reliance on power plants that burn natural gas.

In approving the project, BOEM indicated it took into consideration any further construction delay on Connecticut's own clean energy goals, as Avangrid moves ahead with Park City Wind — a Bridgeport-based project slated for a 2025 launch, with assemblies to be loaded onto ships for subsequent installation offshore.

Eversource Energy is also planning a wind farm off the Southern New England coast called Revolution Wind to benefit Connecticut.

On days with sustained winds, Vineyard Wind's electric output would approach that of the smaller of Millstone Nuclear Power Station's two reactors operated by Dominion Energy in Waterford, which paired with its larger sibling reactor forms New England's largest power plant at more than 2,000 megawatts.

If approved by BOEM, Park City Wind will top slightly the power output of Vineyard Wind for Connecticut and Rhode Island customers. The bureau is currently analyzing a commercial operation plan submitted last year by Avangrid Renewables.

Vineyard Wind is structured as a joint venture of Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, with its main office in New Bedford, Mass. The developer is aiming for the turbines to begin generating electricity in 2023 and achieve full power output the following year.

Avangrid is also developing a larger wind farm off Kitty Hawk, N.C.; the three projects come on the heels of Deepwater Wind, which was built in 2016 to supply electricity to Block Island, R.I.

"One of the things that we've learned is with Vineyard Wind [is] we've been the guinea pig with BOEM," said Avangrid CEO Dennis Ariola, speaking two weeks ago on a conference call. "Our expectation is that, as we continue to go forward with Park City and with Kitty Hawk, the experience that we have and the comfort — hopefully — that BOEM has with our process is going to help us."

In January, Avangrid received the final approval necessary to proceed with New England Clean Energy Connect, snaking transmission lines south through Maine to import power from hydroelectric dams on the St. Lawrence Seaway in Quebec, Canada, adding 1,200 megawatts of capacity to the New England grid.

And Avangrid envisions a similar project for upstate New York called Excelsior Connect, only with lines buried — the company describes it as "an underground clean energy superhighway" — to feed hydro power to the New York City region.

"The team has been working on this one for a while, looking at the most efficient and effective way from where we think we can receive energy from a renewable developer to get it all the way down to New York," Arriola said in late February. "It's something that we're really excited about."

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman

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