Vineyard Wind (VW) today announced that it has entered into a collaborative agreement with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) to plan and conduct pre- and post-construction assessments of fisheries and associated ecological conditions. The assessment, which will further public understanding of offshore wind development impacts, would be used to inform future permitting and public policy decisions regarding wind energy facility siting.
“The fishing industry has raised important questions about the impacts of offshore wind development on the marine environment and on sea life, and a comprehensive research effort is need to provide answers and identify possible solutions” said Erich Stephens, Chief Development Officer with Vineyard Wind. “Our goal in collaborating with the School for Marine Science and Technology is to use our project, which we expect to be the first large-scale offshore wind project in the US, to begin to establish a robust body of knowledge that will benefit the American offshore wind industry and the fishing community for decades to come.”
SMAST Dean Steven Lohrenz noted “This assessment will help answer questions and provide information that can further the public understanding of potential impacts of offshore wind development and possible means of mitigation of any such impacts. The information would then be available to help inform future permitting and public policy decisions.”
Under terms of the collaboration, SMAST staff will undertake a scoping exercise by soliciting input from fisheries’ representatives, policy makers, regulators and academics beginning in the spring of 2018. The phase includes planning for assessment schedules, budgets and objectives. The objective of this scoping exercise is to identify the research questions most relevant and important for understanding how offshore wind and the fishing industry can grow alongside each other in the years to come.
Vineyard Wind has provided an initial funding commitment to jump start the scoping process. With in-state construction set to begin in 2019, Vineyard Wind is positioned to be the first project in the Massachusetts Clean Energy 83C solicitation process to deliver significant job opportunities to residents of the Commonwealth and put people to work immediately. Vineyard Wind has committed to contributing additional funding for complete pre- and post-construction assessments by SMAST if it is selected by the MA Clean Energy judges to develop an offshore wind project.
In December, Vineyard Wind became the first of several competing projects to apply for federal and state construction permits by submitting applications with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ Energy Facilities Siting Board.
Following passage of An Act to Promote Energy Diversity in 2016, Massachusetts required the state’s electric distribution companies to procure 1,600 megawatts (MW) of clean, offshore wind energy within the next decade, resulting in robust interest by developers to participate in the procurement process for long-term offshore wind contracts. The addition of 1,600 MW of low-carbon wind generation capacity will provide enough clean, homegrown energy to power the equivalent of more than 750,000 Massachusetts homes every year.