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Vineyard Wind timeline will slide due to permit delay

Vineyard Wind LLC said it will push back its timeline for building America's first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, after the U.S. government delayed once again the issuance of a final environmental impact statement for the 800-MW project off Cape Cod, Mass.

After announcing on Aug. 9 that the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, has decided to delay issuing its final EIS for the Vineyard Offshore Wind Project, developer Vineyard Wind said Aug. 12 that its shareholders have affirmed the company's commitment to building the project, "albeit with a delayed project schedule."

Contracted by Massachusetts to help fulfill the state's clean-energy mandate, Vineyard Wind previously planned to begin construction in late 2019 and to become operational by 2021 or 2022. Under the company's 20-year power purchase agreements with Massachusetts utilities Eversource Energy, National Grid USA and Unitil Corp., the project is required to have 400 MW of nameplate capacity online by 2022.

"We are disappointed not to deliver the project on the timeline we had anticipated," said Lars Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, in a press release. "We were less than four months away from launching a new industry in the United States."

The BOEM in March 2018 announced its intention to prepare an EIS for the Vineyard Wind project, setting off a process that generally takes about a year. However, BOEM said on Aug. 9 that it intends to undertake a supplemental draft EIS process, to analyze the effects of the many offshore wind projects and procurements that are expected to follow the development of Vineyard Wind.

"The timing of such an analysis is not compatible with the original timeline that has been communicated to Vineyard Wind since March 2018, which Vineyard Wind used to build its delivery schedule," Vineyard explained. "With this development, the shareholders must revise the project as the original timeline is no longer feasible."

Meanwhile, the company said permitting of the offshore wind project's submarine transmission segment, which includes a new substation, will continue "in advance of the revised project." The delay will be used to refine the offshore wind project and enhance its benefits, the company said.

Vineyard Wind is a joint venture between Denmark-based Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners K/S and Connecticut utility Avangrid Inc.'s Avangrid Renewables LLC subsidiary. The majority stakeholder in Avangrid is Spanish energy company Iberdrola SA.