Vineyard Wind Connector Undergoes Environmental Review

The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office has begun an environmental review of the proposed Vineyard Wind Connector transmission project.

The review is yet another step forward for Vineyard Wind’s proposal to construct a large, utility-scale wind energy project off the coast of Massachusetts, with in-state construction to begin in 2019, the developer said.

State and local regulatory review of the Vineyard Wind Connector project, a buried and submarine electric transmission project which will provide grid connection for offshore wind turbines located over 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, will be undertaken by a number of state and local agencies and boards in addition to the MEPA review. These regulatory reviews and approvals include the Conservation Commission and Planning Boards of the Towns of Barnstable and Yarmouth as well as the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The MEPA review process began with public consultative sessions in Boston and Hyannis, as well as a site visit in Barnstable and Yarmouth, on Monday, 8 January. The meetings and site visit follow Vineyard Wind’s filing of an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) and permit application on 15 December 15, 2017. The consultation sessions and the site visit conducted by the MEPA office were undertaken to gather public comment and agency input for MEPA’s use in developing a Scope for the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). The review will include a Mandatory Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) by Vineyard Wind, and opportunity for public comment to the Final EIR.

The proposed Vineyard Wind Connector is comprised of subsea and subsurface electrical transmission lines and a new substation that will connect the Vineyard Wind generation project to the Massachusetts electric grid.

The Vineyard Wind offshore wind turbine array, located in the federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and approximately 34 miles south of the Cape Cod mainland, calls for a grid connection point to an existing substation in an industrial park in Barnstable with no changes to the existing electrical transmission. Vineyard Wind has stipulated that solid dielectric cables will be buried for their entire length and that transformers and other electrical equipment at the new substation will be underlain by full volume, impervious containment systems.

MEPA will accept written comments on the ENF until January 16, 2018. Copies of the ENF are available at public libraries and town government offices in Yarmouth, Barnstable, Mashpee, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

In addition to MEPA review, the Vineyard Wind project will face a public review through over 25 federal, state, and local approval processes, including from the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, Massachusetts DEP and CZM, the Cape Cod Commission and local conservation commissions.

Vineyard Wind is one of three companies that has acquired lease rights to build wind projects off the coast of Massachusetts.

The company has leased an area of about 160,000 acres where it hopes to build as much as 1,600MW of wind energy.  Massachusetts plans to have 1,600MW of offshore wind energy online and operating by 2027.

Besides Vineyard Wind, Ørsted, former DONG Energy, and Deepwater Wind proposed to develop wind projects offshore Massachusetts.

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