Developers Bid to Build Wind Farm Off Massachusetts

What do you do when your $3 billion plan to build a wind farm off the U.S. East Coast comes up against a major regulatory setback? Double the size of the project.

At least that’s what Vineyard Wind LLC just did. Two weeks ago, the developer of an 800-megawatt offshore wind project near Massachusetts learned the Trump administration is extending its review of the proposal, delaying construction for an undetermined amount of time. Instead of shelving the project, the company said Friday that it’s proposing a second phase that would as much as double the capacity to 1,600 megawatts.

It’s calling the second stage Vineyard Wind 2. The company “is very excited to submit these proposals, which offer significant job creation and port infrastructure investment opportunity for the region, while ensuring an attractive, fixed price for electric ratepayers,” Lars Pedersen, the developer’s chief executive officer, said by email.

Vineyard Wind didn’t give a time frame for the second part of the project. The initial stage was expected to be completed by early 2022, becoming the first major offshore wind farm in America and touching off a wind power boom in the U.S. Northeast that analysts have estimated could grow into a $70 billion industry. But the company said last week that it would have to revise that schedule after the Interior Department extended a review of the project.

In extending the review, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the federal officials needed to “dot their I’s and cross their T’s.” The agency now expects to complete the study in December or January, potentially allowing for a decision on the first Vineyard Wind farm by March.

Vineyard Wind submitted its plan for a second stage to Massachusetts, which was accepting bids on Friday for 800 megawatts of offshore wind power. The joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and utility Avangrid Inc. had already won a contract with Massachusetts for its initial plan in a previous auction.

A partnership between Danish developer Orsted A/S and utility Eversource Energy also submitted a proposal to Massachusetts Friday for an 800-megawatt wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard, according to a joint statement. The companies proposed the option of a 400-megawatt project.

In an effort to attract more bidders, Massachusetts removed a price cap that had required developers to beat Vineyard Wind’s $65 per megawatt-hour price. Federal tax credits for offshore wind are scheduled to expire Jan. 1, reducing a key incentive to build the projects. Other developers with offshore leases may submit plans before the end of Friday.

Christopher Martin