Nearly 5 GW of New Offshore Wind Power Approved for the U.S. Northeast

Over the past week, the offshore wind power sector in the U.S. received two major federal approvals that could add nearly 5 GW to the grid.

On July 1, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved a construction and operations plan (COP) for  Avangrid’s 791-MW New England Wind 1 project and 1,080-MW New England Wind 2 project. On July 2, the agency announced a joint record of decision (ROD) for Shell New Energies and EDF Renewables North America’s 2.8-GW Atlantic Shores South offshore wind energy project offshore New Jersey—making it the nation’s ninth commercial-scale offshore wind project to receive the distinction.

A Big Milestone for New England Offshore Projects

BOEM’s COP approval will permit the construction and operation of Avangrid’s New England 1 and 2—a combined 2.6 GW. The  projects are situated approximately 20 nautical miles (nm) south of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and about 24 nm southwest of Nantucket, Massachusetts. “The COP for the two projects includes up to 129 wind turbine generators, up to five electric service platforms, and up to five offshore export cables transmitting electricity to onshore transmission systems in the Town of Barnstable and Bristol County, Massachusetts,” BOEM said.   

Avangrid, an Iberdrola Group subsidiary, on Monday said full federal approval of the COP for the New England Wind 1 “represents a critical milestone, and largely completes the federal, state, and local permitting process” for the project. The project sited in federal lease area OCS-A 0534, roughly 30 miles south of Barnstable, Massachusetts, is “exceptionally advanced and shovel-ready,” it noted.

The project will notably border the 806-MW Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind project to the south. Owned a joint venture comprising Avangrid and Danish Investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners,  Vineyard Wind has marked remarkable progress since it kicked off offshore construction in late 2022 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Avangrid on Monday noted Vineyard Wind achieved steel-in-the-water in June 2023 and completed the nation’s first offshore substation in July 2023. In January, the project marked first power from the first of its 62 13-MW GE Vernova Haliade-X wind turbines. It is expected to be fully operational later this year.

Construction of Avangrid’s New England Wind projects, however, will be determined by an offshore procurement process jointly offered by the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The effort stems from an October 2023 memorandum of understanding signed by the three states to jointly seek offshore wind proposals “that would expand benefits for the region, capture cost reductions by developing projects at scale, and develop into viable projects.” Avangrid submitted proposals to the procurement in March to build the 791-MW New England Wind 1, pair it with a 1-GW New England Wind 2 project for a massive 1.9-GW project, and additional bids for single-state procurements in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

The company on Monday noted that the “states are anticipated to announce selected projects from the competitive procurement in August 2024.” New England Wind 1 “is the only project in the solicitation that has all federal, state, and local permits; the ability to start construction in 2025; and deliver power by 2029.” it said.

A Boost for New Jersey’s Offshore Goals

Shell New Energies and EDF’s Atlantic Shores South wind project consists of two wind energy facilities. Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Project 1 would have a capacity of 1.5 GW, and while Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Project 2’s capacity has not been determined, Atlantic Shores has a goal for 1.3 GW, “which would align with the interconnection construction and service agreements Atlantic Shores intends to execute in the future with the regional transmission organization (RTO), PJM,” BOEM said.

The project is approximately 8.7 miles offshore New Jersey at its closest point. “To provide energy to New Jersey, Atlantic Shores South proposed up to 200 total wind turbine generators and up to ten offshore substations with subsea transmission cables potentially making landfall in Atlantic City and Sea Girt, New Jersey. BOEM has approved construction of up to 195 wind turbine generators,” the agency noted.

If built, Atlantic Shores would contribute to New Jersey’s goal of 11 GW of offshore wind energy generation by 2040, as outlined in New Jersey Governor’s Executive Order No. 307, which was issued on September 2022. Project 1, notably, is intended to fulfill the New Jersey Board of Utilities’ (BPU’s) September 2020 solicitation for 1,200 to 2,400 MW of offshore wind capacity. The BPU order identifies 1,509.6 MW of offshore wind energy as the required capacity for the project.

PJM and the BPU in February notably agreed to a “State Agreement Approach Study Agreement,” which seeks to take advantage of PJM’s expertise and planning process to solicit transmission solutions to serve New Jersey’s offshore wind goals. “New Jersey is the first state to use PJM’s State Agreement Approach process to advance public policy goals. PJM’s work with NJBPU under the SAA has been cited as a model for other states to develop the transmission infrastructure needed for their own energy policies,” noted PJM.

“Today’s announcement is the direct result of more than 5 years of stakeholder engagement and more than 40 environmental studies to safely and responsibly progress Atlantic Shores Project 1 and 2,” said Jennifer Daniels, Development Director, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind. “I am so proud of our team’s tireless efforts to secure these critical approvals and bring us one step closer to delivering clean energy to more than one million homes.”

Progress Despite Recent Market Turmoil

BOEM’s actions announced this week mark new momentum for the offshore wind sector, which has suffered headwinds owing to rising inflation, supply chain disruptions, and high interest rates that have increased project costs and financing challenges.

In October 2023, Ørsted canceled its development of Ocean Wind 1 and 2, a combined 2.2 GW project that it had planned off the coast of southern New Jersey. The company, however, agreed to take a final investment decision on the 704-MW Revolution Wind project, which it is developing with utility Eversource. Construction on that project off the Connecticut coast is ongoing. It is expected to begin commercial operations in 2025.

Ørsted owns and operates one of the first offshore wind projects in the U.S.—the 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm. But it has since also brought online the 130-MW South Fork Wind  35 miles east of Montauk Point. The 12-turbine South Fork project, which began commercial operation in March, holds the historical distinction as the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S.

Much more progress is on the horizon. BOEM on Tuesday noted it has held four offshore wind energy lease sales, including those offshore New York, New Jersey, and the Carolinas and the first-ever sales offshore the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coasts. The Interior Department also recently announced a schedule of up to 12 additional lease sales through 2028. 

In January, BOEM approved a COP for the 2.6-GW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project. Dominion Energy anticipates the massive project—comprising 176 14.7-megawatt Siemens Gamesa turbines—offshore Virginia will be completed in late 2026.

Development of the CVOW project remains on time and on budget” despite recent market turmoil, Dominion notes. “Our practice on major projects is to provide cost certainty before we file for review and approval with the State Corporation Commission. For CVOW, we negotiated fixed-price contracts with our major offshore wind suppliers and locked in manufacturing slots before the supply chain constraints emerged that have impacted other offshore wind projects,” it says. “At this point, more than 90% of costs are fixed, and major offshore equipment is in an advanced stage of fabrication, which provides confidence in the cost for CVOW.”

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).

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