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FERC greenlights proposed 'ocean grid' to move up to 4 GW of Mass. offshore wind

Federal regulators approved the construction of an underwater transmission project being developed by a venture headed by Anbaric Transmission to move between 2,000 MW and 4,000 MW of wind energy produced offshore Massachusetts. In a related development, state regulators issued an environmental certificate for another undersea transmission line being developed by Avangrid Renewables LLC and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners K/S to facilitate a proposed 800-MW offshore wind farm off Cape Cod, Mass.

Anbaric Transmission in March 2017 teamed up with province-owned Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board to form Anbaric Development Partners to develop the first project, dubbed Massachusetts Ocean Grid. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Feb. 13 determined that Anbaric Development could sell transmission rights on the planned project to offshore wind developers that hold or are expected to obtain leases to build in federal waters. (FERC Docket No. ER18-435)

"We're grateful for the green light from FERC because much is at stake," ADP CEO Edward Krapels said. "Massachusetts needs to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to become a worldwide leader in offshore wind."

The first phase of Massachusetts Ocean Grid is slated to begin operations by December 2021, and the entire system is expected to be up and running by 2025. The project includes two high-voltage, direct-current transmission lines carrying 1,000 MW each from offshore platforms located in offshore wind lease blocks into ISO New Englands Southeast Massachusetts Load Zone. The two HVDC lines will connect to converter stations on land located at two separate substations, where the electricity will be transformed back to alternating current for distribution into the New England grid.

The project is being driven by Massachusetts' Energy Diversity Act signed into law in August 2016, which mandates that the state's utilities procure 1,600 MW of offshore wind by July 2027. The first winning bid is expected to be announced this spring.

Krapels said the designated offshore wind development area off southern New England will offer a common interconnection point for multiple developers rather than relying on each wind developer to build its own individual generator lead.

"To realize the potential of offshore wind, however, a backbone offshore grid must be carefully developed and remain independent of the individual wind farm developers," he said. "An independent transmission system like Ocean Grid will open the offshore wind market to more than just three bidders and is critical to the Commonwealth's ability to get the competitive prices that consumers deserve."

Krapels added that the transmission backbone must be carefully designed to optimize the limited number of onshore interconnection points with the power grid while maximizing competition among wind generators and minimizing the environmental impact of the transmission needed to bring offshore wind into the ISO New England market.

Review of Vineyard Wind connector line advances

Another undersea transmission project being developed by Vineyard Wind LLC, a joint venture between Avangrid Inc.'s renewables arm and investment fund Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, cleared the first hurdle of its environmental review at the state level to connect its proposed 800-MW offshore wind farm to the broader grid. The offshore wind project was one of those submitted in December 2017 in response to Massachusetts' solicitation for 1,600 MW of offshore wind.

The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office advanced its environmental review of the proposed Vineyard Wind Connector transmission project Feb. 14 by issuing an Environmental Notification Form as part of its draft environmental impact report. The certificate defines what potential environmental impacts will be analyzed and addressed in the project's draft report, which is expected to be issued this spring and to be subject to additional public and regulatory comment.

The proposed Vineyard Wind Connector comprises subsea and subsurface electrical transmission lines and a new substation that will connect the offshore wind project, located 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and 34 miles from the Cape mainland, to an existing substation in a Cape Cod industrial park in Barnstable. The project will not require any changes to the existing transmission system on the Cape. Developers are aiming to begin construction on the transmission system at the start of 2019.

The entire Vineyard Wind offshore wind and transmission project will undergo public and regulatory review in 25 federal, state and local approval process, including those to be conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, the Cape Cod Commission and local conservation commissions.

The majority shareholder of Avangrid is Spain-based Iberdrola SA.