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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    Orsted, Eversource confident in offshore wind as competitor faces delay in Massachusetts

    New London — Recent delays for the nation's first large-scale offshore wind farm — Vineyard Wind's 800 megawatt project for Massachusetts — have not shaken Orsted's and Eversource's confidence in plans to bring offshore wind power to Connecticut by 2023.

    The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently called for a "more robust" analysis of Vineyard Wind following feedback from stakeholders, including commercial fishermen concerned about potential impacts. BOEM, which leases federal waters to offshore wind developers, said it will complete a supplemental environmental review and gather more feedback from the public by late this year or early next.

    The delay jeopardizes tax breaks sought by New Bedford-based Vineyard Wind — which hoped to begin construction later this year — and sparked complaints by Massachusetts officials that the Trump administration was stalling on renewables while working to roll back regulations on coal power and offshore drilling.

    Vineyard Wind — a joint venture by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables — said this week that its shareholders remain committed to the $2.8 billion wind farm south of Martha's Vineyard.

    Orsted and Eversource, set to deliver 300 megawatts of electricity to Connecticut from a wind farm also south of Martha's Vineyard, said in a statement Friday that they want to see Vineyard Wind succeed "because it is important for the future growth of the industry in the United States."

    "With a world-class seabed and wind conditions similar to Northern Europe, and states up and down the East Coast aggressively pursuing renewable energy portfolios, offshore wind will continue to be one of the fastest-growing green energy sectors of the economy — bringing homegrown energy, skilled jobs and a supply chain that amplifies economic growth," Orsted and Eversource said in a joint statement.

    With Orsted's dominance in offshore wind in Europe and Eversource's longstanding presence and experience "with regional transmission development, we are confident in our ability to deliver clean, green offshore wind energy to the Northeast," the companies said.

    Formerly Danish Oil and Natural Gas, Orsted is the world's largest offshore wind developer. The company in recent years sold off its oil and gas business and is converting its last coal-fired plant into a biomass plant in Denmark. Orsted bought Block Island Wind Farm developer Deepwater Wind last year for $500 million.

    "Both Ørsted and Eversource know what it takes to develop projects that deliver the environmental and economic benefits to the communities in which they operate," the companies said. "We take a holistic approach to community and stakeholder engagement and our project timelines created by our teams are realistic, informed by our actual experience in the development of large-scale commercial windfarms and other large energy infrastructure projects throughout the region."

    BOEM requires offshore wind developers to conduct extensive geophysical and archeological surveys. BOEM contracts stipulate that construction schedules must not impede right whale migration patterns, and vessels must maintain certain distances from a range of wildlife, including sea turtles.

    Orsted-Eversource already have begun survey work as they prepare a range of permit applications.

    The state Commission on Environmental Standards recently submitted a report to DEEP recommending an adaptive operational plan in which developers, DEEP and stakeholders "periodically assess information gathered" in ongoing studies and shake up plans, when necessary, to boost efforts to mitigate environmental impacts.

    The commission also recommended that developers establish a mitigation fund to offset economic losses or burdens to the fishing industry and other environmental impacts; in-depth decommissioning plans and funding; and assessments and plans to avoid wildlife impacts.

    A key step in the Orsted-Eversource plan, which was approved by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection last year, is the redevelopment of New London State Pier. The $93 million public-private investment in State Pier upgrades — almost $60 million from Orsted-Eversource and $35 million from the state — requires a host of approvals, including through DEEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to create an offshore wind development hub here.

    The Connecticut Port Authority's initial permit application for the project was deemed insufficient by DEEP in June. The Port Authority is working to meet a host of requirements set forth by DEEP, such as providing a map of existing shellfish beds, and explanations on the Port Authority's authority to dredge material and whether existing users of State Pier will be displaced by the project.

    A message left with David Kooris, acting Port Authority Board Chairman and deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, was not immediately returned.

    Port Authority and Orsted-Eversource officials said earlier this month that recent leadership upheaval at the Port Authority would not impact ongoing negotiations for the State Pier project.

    Vineyard Wind in a statement said its wind farm "remains the most advanced offshore wind project in the United States with a robust supply chain in place and ready to move forward, as well as key permits and approvals" from half a dozen state and local agencies in Massachusetts.

    John Humphries, executive director of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, said he was not concerned about offshore wind's progress in light of Vineyard Wind's delay. He added that his organization successfully fought for strong environmental standards in the law passed this spring which called on the state to procure up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. The resulting draft request for proposals from DEEP contains "rigorous environmental protections," he said.

    "Yes, there may be some challenges and delays, but in the end we know offshore wind is going to move," he said. "All the climate policies are driving this and in some ways, maybe Connecticut will benefit from having Massachusetts go first."


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