The 800 MW $3bn Vineyard Wind 1 Massachusetts offshore project edged closer to obtaining US Government approval this week, daring clean energy companies to dream of a clean energy boom off the Eastern Seaboard. The project’s developers, a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) now hopes to secure financial closure for the project in the second half of 2021 after the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that raised no significant problems that would stand in the way of final approval from federal agencies.
If approved, Vineyard Wind’s 62 turbines would stand 15 miles south of the island of Martha’s Vineyard and sell electricity to utilities in Massachusetts. It would simultaneously go some way to enabling President Joe Biden to honour his pledge to remove carbon emissions from the US electricity sector by 2035 and could kick off a US building boom for a renewable energy technology that is already established in Europe. According to a report co-published by Ember and Iberdrola subsidiary Agora Energiewende, two clean-energy think tanks, renewable energy generated by solar, hydropower, wind, and biomass accounted for 38% of Europe’s energy supply for 2020, which is a net increase of 34.6 % over the previous year. In the US, by contrast, the EIA calculates that figure to be around 20%.
Vineyard Wind’s progress may be a sign that things are changing, however. The director of Wood Mackenzie’s energy transition practice Dan Shreve told the FT on Monday that US offshore wind power capacity is likely to surpass 30,000MW by 2029, at an estimated investment cost of $85bn. New York State alone has pledged to have 9,000MW of offshore wind capacity by 2035 and in January awarded contracts to two projects jointly led by BP and Norway’s Equinor. Neighbouring New Jersey has a goal of 7,500MW by 2035 and in January gave Danish multinational power company Ørsted the go-ahead to develop the 1,100MW Ocean Wind project 15 miles off its coast.