Massachusetts Offshore Wind Case Echoes in Rhode Island; Regulator Could Suspend Mayflower Wind Cable Route Application

The case between the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) and the developers of the Commonwealth Wind and Mayflower Wind offshore wind projects has reached beyond the state lines as it raised questions in Rhode Island, where Mayflower Wind filed an application for part of the project’s cable route.

  • Mayflower Wind’s statement on the project’s viability raised concern at Rhode Island PUC
  • Rhode Island regulator could request a sworn testimony on Mayflower Wind viability
  • Developer asked for extension of period to show cause why RI proceedings should continue

The Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) of the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued an order on 10 November, requesting Mayflower Wind, a joint venture between Shell and Ocean Winds, to show cause why the proceedings for its application should not be suspended.

According to the document, EFSB would otherwise suspend the proceedings until matters are settled in Massachusetts and Mayflower Wind has provided a sworn testimony on its project’s economic and financial viability under the agreements approved by the Massachusetts DPU.

As reported over the past several days, Commonwealth Wind (Avangrid) was the first to file a motion with the Massachusetts DPU, requesting a one-month suspension in the review and approval proceedings for the power purchase agreements (PPAs) the company signed with the state’s three electric distribution companies. Mayflower Wind joined the motion shortly after.

The developers, who say their projects would no longer be viable under the PPAs due to current global economic conditions, were denied the motion and were requested to notify the DPU whether they will resume with the PPAs currently undergoing review, or move to dismiss the proceedings.

Mayflower Wind was first to respond by withdrawing its motion and deciding to resume, followed by Commonwealth Wind. However, in their responses, both developers retained their standpoint that the projects’ viability was in question under conditions in the current PPAs and noted the offtake agreements need to be amended.

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According to the Rhode Island EFSB’s order from 10 November, if the developer does not show cause to continue the application proceedings, they would be suspended until the Massachusetts DPU issues final orders on the applicable pending PPAs and amendments.

On top of that, Mayflower Wind would also need to testify to prove its offshore wind project is economically and financially viable under the pricing and conditions of its PPAs approved in Massachusetts.

On 15 November, Mayflower Wind filed a notice with the Energy Facility Siting Board of waiver of the ten-day deadline for a hearing to show cause order and requested an extension of time to respond to the order, to a date to be determined after consultation between Mayflower Wind and counsel for the Board.

Mayflower Wind’s Application for Cable Route Through Rhode Island

Mayflower Wind filed its application with the Rhode Island EFSB in May 2022, requesting an approval to construct transmission facilities in the Rhode Island jurisdiction which are necessary to connect the Mayflower Wind offshore wind farm(s) to the regional transmission system at Brayton Point in Somerset, Massachusetts.

The facilities in Rhode Island would include, among others, two HVDC subsea export cables within a single export cable corridor that will run up the Sakonnet River, make intermediate landfall on the northeastern shore of Portsmouth, traverse Portsmouth underground, and transition back to offshore in Mount Hope Bay.

The application also comprises a possible variation that would facilitate the future delivery of additional capacity from the Mayflower Wind offshore wind project by “right-sizing” certain transmission facilities located in Rhode Island as part of the current construction to minimise future disturbance and environmental impact, according to the documents available at the Rhode Island PUC.

Shell and Ocean Winds are developing two projects in the Mayflower Wind lease area, for which federal permitting started in October last year.

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The PPAs for the first, 804 MW Mayflower Wind project were approved by the DPU in November 2020 after the offshore wind farm was selected by the state in the offshore wind solicitation in 2019.

The second, 405 MW Mayflower Wind project was chosen in Massachusetts’s procurement last year and signed PPAs for USD 76.7/MWh this April. 

Earlier this year, the Mayflower Wind joint venture announced that it had merged the two Mayflower Wind projects into one development now known as the SouthCoast Project.