We Can’t Let Offshore Wind Stall Out in New England

Although the Trump administration is delaying a promising project, Massachusetts is still moving forward with offshore wind.

offshore wind farm

Offshore wind has the potential to power thousands of homes using clean, renewable energy. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Update: Mayflower Wind has just been announced as the winner of the second Massachusetts offshore wind bidding process. Like Vineyard Wind’s project, it would provide roughly 800 megawatts of power to families and businesses across New England. Now, Mayflower Wind and the offshore wind selection committee will negotiate the final contract and move forward with project approvals.  

Offshore wind is a crucial element of New England’s clean energy future. Ocean winds can provide valuable energy to power homes and businesses across the region. We’ve seen this play out in Rhode Island, where a five-turbine project built off of Block Island in 2016 now generates enough energy to power approximately 17,000 homes.

Over the past few years, Massachusetts has been betting big on this new industry. The state passed laws requiring that a certain amount of our energy come from offshore wind, and three developers submitted bids to be among the companies that helps build out this new industry. These potential projects are under review by the Department of Energy Resources and the electric companies that will be buying the power. While generating affordable, clean energy is the goal, the projects must also include plans for avoiding harm to sensitive marine species like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

These bids follow an earlier round of bidding in 2018. Vineyard Wind was awarded that contract, and its 800 megawatt project has been making its way through the necessary approval processes ever since. All that’s left now is for the federal government to sign off—but the Trump administration is stalling its final review in a blatant attempt to put the brakes on this critical source of local clean energy.

The Trump Administration Is Holding New England Back from Clean Energy

The Vineyard Wind project, set to rise from waters 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, would generate enough energy to power roughly 400,000 homes and businesses. Signing a state contract takes care of the financing side of an offshore wind project, but it takes considerably more work for the developers involved to get the turbines sited, built, and operational.

Environmental review at both the state and federal levels is a piece of that. During Vineyard Wind’s environmental review last year, CLF and our allies worked with the developer on an agreement to reduce harm to North Atlantic right whales and other marine species during construction and operation of the wind farm. We also developed best management practices for future developments.

Unfortunately, finalizing and approving Vineyard Wind’s overall environmental plan has been delayed at the federal level. The Trump administration claims it needs further review, setting a timeline that could kill the project entirely. Environmental review is important. However, in this case, it would be better to do additional review in a comprehensive way, rather than delay this one project for political reasons.

Right now, Vineyard Wind qualifies for a tax credit that will help the company build out this wind farm and provide low-cost energy to the region. But if the project is delayed, that tax credit will expire, leaving the project on uncertain financial footing. While the federal slowdown shakes up the original schedule for Vineyard Wind and Massachusetts, the project’s backers have committed to making the project work.

CLF wants the administration to stop its delay tactics and finalize Vineyard Wind’s federal permitting as soon as possible. Our region needs the power that properly sited offshore wind turbines will generate if we are to reach our clean energy goals and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Despite Setbacks, Massachusetts Moves Ahead with Offshore Wind

Despite the unexpected setback at the federal level, we are optimistic about the future of offshore wind in New England. Three developers, including Vineyard Wind, have sent Massachusetts their bids to build another large wind farm off the coast, and the Commonwealth has no plans to pull back from this nascent industry.

Offshore wind has the potential to bring good local jobs to the region alongside the affordable clean energy it will produce. If the Trump administration will stop stalling, offshore wind can move forward in a manner that benefits local economies, generates affordable power for the region, and protects valuable natural resources. We can’t let the Trump administration hold us back.

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