Biden to OK offshore wind farm near Martha’s Vineyard

Biden to OK offshore wind farm near Martha’s Vineyard
The Biden administration is set to approve plans for the first major offshore wind farm in federal waters, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Interior Department authorization, which is planned for early Tuesday, will pave the way for construction of the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind LLC project near the coast of Massachusetts, and puts it on a path to begin supplying power to some 400,000 homes on the U.S. East Coast late next year. The agency’s plans were described by people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named before a formal announcement.

Just two wind farms are located in waters along the U.S. East Coast today — and collectively, they provide fewer than 50 megawatts of generation capacity. The Vineyard project is a key stepping stone in achieving President Joe Biden’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by the end of the decade. Plans for more than a dozen more offshore wind farms are now pending.

The project, a joint venture of Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, is poised to be the first of several massive wind farms built off the East Coast, each propelled by state clean-energy mandates and a nationwide clamour for renewable power.

Interior Department spokespeople declined to comment on the matter. A Vineyard Wind spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Under a preferred design identified by the agency’s Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management in March, the Vineyard Wind project would encompass no more than 84 wind turbines, each separated by at least one nautical mile.

The Interior Department has scrutinized Vineyard Wind for years, with extra analysis on how a surge in offshore wind development will affect marine life and the fishing industry. Even so, fishing industry representatives are expected to challenge both the project’s approval and those environmental reviews in federal court. The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, which represents fishing interests, has argued that navigating around the project would force some large boats to lose time and revenue.

The U.S. has lagged behind other nations in deploying offshore wind, particularly Northern Europe, where subsidies and clean energy mandates encouraged the ventures. U.S. developers also must clear a more complex web of permitting requirements and, at times, contend with fierce local opposition of the kind that helped kill the Cape Wind project once planned near the Massachusetts coast.
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