Mayflower Wind Recommits to Project After Energy Siting Board Raises Concerns Over Company’s Statements
December 5, 2022
WARWICK, R.I. — An offshore wind developer reaffirmed its project commitments last week after state regulators raised questions over the company’s statements regarding the financial viability of a new wind project.
In filings to Rhode Island’s Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB), project developer Mayflower Wind said it remained committed to its proposed 1,200-megawatt offshore wind facility, and that it only raised “reasonable concerns” regarding the economics of renewable energy projects in light of current conditions. The company indicated the project was still viable and remains under active development, and said it would move forward with permitting and purchase-power agreement (PPA) approval.
“Mayflower Wind understands the importance of its Clean Energy Resource and the necessary transmission connector projects to meet the need established by the public policy requirements and the clean energy and energy security needs of Massachusetts and the region,” company attorney Eric Runge wrote in a filing to the EFSB dated Nov. 23. “Mayflower Wind remains fully committed to helping to meet those needs with its projects.”
EFSB chair Ronald Gerwatowski issued Mayflower Wind a 10-day show cause order Nov. 10 after learning through media reports that the company, along with Commonwealth Wind, had requested Massachusetts regulators suspend contract approval proceedings for their power-purchase agreements. Mayflower Wind, earlier this year, filed its 20-year agreement to provide 1,200 megawatts of wind power to Rhode Island’s three largest utility companies.
“The basis for the request was that the wind projects may not be economically viable with the current pricing under the contracts, and that pricing adjustments might be necessary,” Gerwatowski wrote. “This has given rise to questions about the economic and viability of the Mayflower Wind Project that is before the EFSB in these proceedings.”
The EFSB in October voted to begin the process to seek advisory opinions from state agencies and project stakeholders.
In an October filing to Massachusetts regulators, Commonwealth Wind said a one-month suspension would “enable the parties to consider potential approaches to restore the project’s viability — including cost-saving measures, tax incentives under the newly enacted Inflation Reduction Act, an increase in the PPA prices, and improvements to projects efficiencies.”
The company indicated the expected costs of the project were increasing due to supply chain constraints, rising interest rates, and inflation.
In its filing last week, Mayflower Wind said it had withdrawn its request for a one-month suspension and said it will provide a third-party economic analysis on the financial viability of the project, with a solution that “provides value to taxpayers.”
New England for Offshore Wind, a coalition of environmental groups, educational institutions, and unions, urged the EFSB not to suspend Mayflower Wind’s application, arguing the region was at a pivotal point in its transition to a cleaner energy economy.
Mayflower Wind filed its applications for Rhode Island regulators’ approval of its offshore wind facility earlier this year. The project is slated to occupy a 199-square-mile lease area 20 miles south of Nantucket.
The project’s export cables would transmit 1,200 megawatts of power under Rhode Island Sound, up through the Sakonnet River, and across the town of Portsmouth running underground, before exiting in Mount Hope Bay and landing at its final destination at Brayton Point in Somerset, Mass. The final cable path has yet to be approved by federal or state regulators. The proposed wind facility would generate enough electricity to power 800,000 homes across New England, according to the developers.
It is expected that all environmental reviews and permitting will be completed in early 2024, with the project expected to become operational sometime in 2028.
Earlier this year the EFSB granted a limited motion from the towns of Little Compton and Middletown to intervene in the permitting process for the project as a joint entity. The towns, which had similar concerns regarding the project, argued project construction would have direct and indirect economic impacts on tourism, boating, and recreational fishing and on tax revenue.
Portsmouth, which would host a 2-mile export cable underneath the town, is expected to receive some form of compensation for hosting the cable, but the specifics have yet to be worked out.
Aquidneck Island anglers earlier this year had also raised concerns over the habitat impacts from the cable burial process, noting the Sakonnet River had been designated an inshore juvenile cod habitat area of particular concern by the New England Fishery Council.
Mayflower Wind said it had conducted extensive field surveys to assess seabed conditions across its entire project area. The bottom of the river is mostly mud and silt, with areas of crepidula, a kind of colonizing mollusk, according to preliminary data from the company.
Rhode Island state agencies will assess potential impacts on fishing, but the company asserted the impacts will remain minimal due to the speed and nature of the cable installation. The riverbed is also expected to recover relatively quickly.
The company has scheduled two drop-in community sessions next week, both in Portsmouth, for community members interested in learning more about the project.