Massachusetts’ first offshore wind project has been delayed indefinitely by the federal government.
Vineyard Wind, the company that proposed an 84 turbine offshore windfarm just south of Martha’s Vineyard, had planned to break ground on the project by the end of this year, but progress has been halted pending a final environmental review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). BOEM has stated it will be seeking supplemental environmental reviews, as the offshore wind industry has expanded more rapidly than they initially predicted.
Vineyard Wind's plan to break ground by the end of 2019 would make it eligible for a 12 percent tax credit, timing that's believed by industry insiders to be essential to Vineyard Wind's competitive power pricing.
BOEM was set to issue its final review in early August, but held back and has not made public comment. Officials believe that the project's potential impact on the fishing industry in the area - particularly, the spacing of the wind turbines and how that could affect ship navigation - is the main reason for the delay.
Vineyard Wind has not yet given a new timeline, but in a statement, has said it will continue to pursue its proposed project. Experts predict that the delayed review could push the project's timeline back a year or more.
“The federal government’s decision to further delay the approval of the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement] for the Vineyard Wind 1 project comes as a surprise and disappointment. To be clear, the Vineyard Wind 1 project remains viable and continues to move forward," Scott Farmelant, spokesperson for the company said in a statement. "The project is poised to kickstart a new offshore wind industry that promises industrial growth along with new manufacturing and blue-collar employment across the United States, from New England to Louisiana to Colorado and beyond."
State officials have also rallied behind the project, promising to continue to support the industry's development in Massachusetts. State representative Bill Keating issued a statement on Friday, vowing to ccontinue to push for the project.
"I believe that the Trump Administration has not dealt fairly with Vineyard Wind," Keating said. "It has instead chosen to call into question the entire future of renewable energy in this country."
Others in the offshore wind industry have expressed concern about what the delay could mean for other companies waiting in the wings. Bill White, the former director of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, now currently at offshore wind company EnBW said the delay is concerning.
"BOEM's recent decision really throws an awful lot of uncertainty into the industry," White said. "I think it’s going to give a lot of folks pause as to whether the Trump administration really does want to create American-made energy."
Nonetheless, others, like Stephanie McClellan, director of the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, a policy organization at the University of Delaware said it was unlikely that politics were in play with this delay.
"More than a hundred billion dollar industry over the next 15 years, more than 40 thousand U.S. jobs, I don’t think any of that is lost on the policy makers here that are looking at these projects, and I think things still bode very well for offshore wind as an industry," McClellan said.
The Vineyard Wind project proposed to generate 800 megawatts of energy, which according to the company would be enough to power 400,000 homes.