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The Vineyard Wind project lands in rough waters



Then there is the problem: the Edgartown Conservation Commission on Wednesday rejected the creation of a submarine cable off the coast of the city, citing the risk of disturbance to marine habitats and other conflicts. (Local fishermen were not happy either.) On Friday, Vineyard Wind promised to obtain a "canceling decision" from the "Environmental Protection Department" – a more friendly place – that would cancel the vote. of the commission.

Vineyard Wind also revealed that the Office of Ocean Energy Management of the US Department of the Interior would not issue a critical license, as planned, this week. Vineyard Wind did not say much, apart from the fact that it was the first "commercial scale" offshore wind project in the United States and will therefore be subject to an unusual review. A spokesman said that no leader would be willing to talk about the setback – this is not a good sign.

A spokesman for the federal agency will not say much either, except to note that the agency is still in a two-year period already set for its review. Oh, and these are monstrous infrastructure projects. (Translation: Do not rush.)

The administration of Governor Charlie Baker has a lot at stake. As part of a state-run contest last year, Vineyard Wind beat two competitors for the utility contracts needed to fund its 800 megawatt wind farm – enough electricity for 400,000 homes – by offering the lowest price for energy.

Maybe Governor Baker's team is trying to speed things up with the federal government. Spokesman Peter Lorenz only made a brief statement, saying the administration is expecting Vineyard Wind to work with federal regulators "to move this important project forward."

The delay inside could be attributed to a simple bureaucracy. After all, the machinery of the federal government often turns more slowly than a windmill one day without wind.

But the silence allowed the rumors to circulate. Maybe the commercial fishermen got the upper hand. Or maybe the new secretary in the interior of President Trump, the former lobbyist of the oil industry David Bernhardt, has concerns. It appears that the Nantucket Selection Board may be preparing for litigation.

Vineyard Wind has already stumbled, but these have been quickly resolved. Yarmouth's neighbors have raised a ruckus about a power line connection to the mainland, so the developer has changed the preferred landing point. The fishermen of Rhode Island lamented potential conflicts over their dredging. Vineyard Wind has therefore proposed a package of mitigation measures.

The potential for delay in construction is increasing every day. Vineyard Wind plans to start work by the end of the year and finalize the project by the end of 2021.

The clock is turning. Vineyard Wind's utility contracts require the first phase to be online by January 15, 2022. The developer has pending supplier orders that could be compromised.

There is also some question about a federal tax credit that will expire at the end of 2019. Vineyard Wind has apparently qualified, but this status could be compromised if some important steps are not respected.

None of Vineyard Wind's rivals wish to see the project collapse.

And Eric Wilkinson, of the Massachusetts Environmental League, pro-wind turbine, described the delay as troubling or even scary. Meanwhile, Bob Rio of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts is looking forward to seeing Vineyard Wind begin.

The Mayor of New Bedford, Jon Mitchell, whose city would organize much of the staging, had a brave face, saying it was hardly surprising that Vineyard Wind had experienced delays, given its nature. unprecedented.

Energy players remember the failed Cape Wind project. It was supposed to be the first offshore wind project in the country. The time is up and the project is dead. It was perhaps a pioneer. But the offshore wind industry now wants a different kind of leader, able to take full advantage of the potential of all these gusts that blow off the coast.


Jon Chesto can be contacted at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.


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