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12 December 2019

Vineyard’s new offshore wind project sets up camp for US industry

Vineyard Wind has been awarded the contract for its 804 MW Park City Wind project which will be situated off the coast of Connecticut. With the infrastructure surrounding the project already fairly sound, Vineyard has stated its intentions of turning Connecticut into “a hub for the offshore wind industry in the United States for decades to come,” as the nation ramps up its ambitions.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responded to the solicitation last Thursday, stating that the contract was awarded to Vineyard, who fought off competition from Shell and Orsted by offering a price below that of any other current project in North America.

According to Vineyard, the project will be commissioned in 2025, although the developer will face significant hurdles to overcome the lack of existing US supply chain. We would expect that this date is slightly overambitious given the state of the US market, with a 2026 or 2027 start-date more realistic, especially as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is likely to extend its impact assessment into late 2020. Despite this, this project will probably be one of the first large-scale installations in the US, ahead of Dominion Energy’s 2.6 GW project, and any resultant supply chain advancements could be massively influential on the US’s long-term build out of offshore wind.

The promise of a large-scale offshore wind farm has been hailed as a big win for Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city. This is only partially due to the injection of renewables, which will provide 14% of the state’s electricity, reducing the state’s reliance on natural gas power plants.

As developers in the US now often have an obligation to include state economic development as part of their proposals, Vineyard has promised to invest $890 million into the local infrastructure and supply chain surrounding the project. This will include using cables from local-supplier Kerite, which Vineyard claims will become “America’s first Tier 1 offshore wind supplier” as a result.

Potentially the key development that Vineyard will facilitate is that of Barnum Landing as an onshore operations site. Many in the industry are currently worried about the significant challenges that the US faces in building-out offshore wind from existing east-coast ports; physical requirements for offshore wind are often more onerous than for traditional cargo. Vineyard will likely have to focus its attention on ground bearing capacity of the soil in the storage area of the port as well as the development of onshore lifting equipment.

Connecticut is situated between Boston and New York – two of the largest cities on the east coast, with close proximity to states where ambitious targets for offshore wind have been set – New York and New Jersey for example are targeting 9 GW and 6 GW respectively by 2035. Early acknowledgment of this required development could see Bridgeport become a hub for the offshore wind industry in the US, especially if alterations are made accordingly for Vineyard to meet its project’s intended deadline of 2025.

Vineyard Wind is a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables, which is largely owned by Iberdrola as well as Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), with each owning 50% of the subsidiary’s projects.