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Interior moves closer to approving first US commercial-scale offshore wind project

Interior moves closer to approving first US commercial-scale offshore wind project
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The Interior Department moved one step closer Monday to allowing for the construction of the country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project. 

Interior released a Final Environmental Impact Statement, the last step before it issues a decision on whether it will approve or deny the request to build the 800-megawatt project 12 miles from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

If approved, the Vineyard Wind 1 project, a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewable, would be expected to be completed in 2023.

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It is much larger than the country’s existing offshore wind farms, the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm and the 12-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. 

According to the Vineyard Wind website, the proposed project is expected to produce the amount energy used by more than 400,000 homes. 

“This is truly a significant step forward in the process for moving toward more offshore wind development,”  Amanda Lefton, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told reporters. 

The Biden administration has stressed the promotion of renewable energy as part of its fight against climate change, including by saying it aims to double its offshore wind energy production by 2030.

Earlier parts of the process for the Vineyard Wind 1 development, however, such as the draft environmental impact statement, were completed during the Trump administration. 

The agency's "preferred" plan for the project, the one it's most likely to approve, would have up to 84 wind turbines.

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The environmental assessment noted that the project is expected to negatively impact commercial fishing, a $630 million industry in Massachusetts in 2018. 

It noted that Vineyard Wind promised compensation funds for lost revenue for fishing interests in Rhode Island and Massachusetts of $25.4 million, which could lessen the impacts. 

—Updated at 4:33 p.m.