SouthCoast Wind Offshore Project Application Approval Put on Hold

Proposal would have installed an export cable along bottom of Sakonnet River


WARWICK, R.I. — State energy regulators this week decided to delay approval of a proposed offshore wind project that would have run an export cable along the bottom of the Sakonnet River.

On Thursday, the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) voted to stay the application of offshore wind developer SouthCoast Wind until Oct. 1, 2024, or until it obtains new financing agreements for its proposed wind project 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

The decision signals the end of nine months of controversy surrounding the developer, who originally indicated last October in filings to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities that its proposed wind facility may be not economically viable with the signed power-purchase agreements.

The 2,400-megawatt project was supposed to provide power to the Massachusetts grid, but developers gave it a local twist; proposing to install one of two export cables along the bottom of the Sakonnet River in Rhode Island waters, where it would run underground across Portsmouth before exiting in Mount Hope Bay to meet the grid at Brayton Point in Somerset, Mass.

But in a show-cause hearing before the EFSB last month, SouthCoast Wind confirmed its decision to withdraw from its current power-purchase agreements with Massachusetts, arguing the economics of the contracts were too low for economic viability, and indicated that it would bid for future contracts with better terms.

EFSB chair Ron Gerwatowski said, as far as the board was concerned, its consideration of SouthCoast Wind’s project application was terminated along with the contracts. Evaluating an application before the board, noted Gerwatowski, was a time-consuming and costly process for a number of state agencies.

“The siting board does not sit as an agency that reviews hypothetical projects to grant a license to any applicant in anticipation that the project may someday be needed,” Gerwatowski said. “Stated simply, if there’s no wind farm financed and constructed, there’s no need for the transmission facility.”

It’s nowhere near a final nail in the coffin for SouthCoast Wind’s proposed offshore project. The decision allows the company to bid in the next round of power-purchase agreements in Massachusetts, which is expected to be completed by next June, without completely restarting the state’s permitting process over again.

If the company does not secure financing by October of next year, the EFSB will dismiss the application.

SouthCoast Wind CEO Francis Slingsby said he was disappointed by the board’s decision, but remained confident that the company will construct the offshore wind facility.

“While this one aspect of permitting is temporarily on hold, we continue to advance our permitting with federal, Rhode Island and Massachusetts state and local bodies,” Slingsby wrote in a statement. “Our team is dedicated to safely building and delivering a reliable source of clean wind energy that will help states meet their greenhouse gas emission goals.”

The EFSB’s decision comes after weeks of growing controversy following an email from a Coastal Resources Management Council staffer. On July 3, David Ciochetto, a member of CRMC’s permitting staff, wrote a three-page email accusing SouthCoast Wind of lying in its statements to state regulators.

According to Ciochetto, company officials misled regulators when they said their application was under review by CRMC and when they claimed to have met with the agency’s Fisherman’s Advisory Board (FAB). Ciochetto also alleged the company lied to CRMC officials and ignored their information requests.

“At CRMC we are mostly worried about the uncertainty that the future brings,” Ciochetto wrote in the email. “There are serious impacts that may be realized. There are potentially more impacts to a small user group then there are benefits.”

In an email dated July 7 responding to the allegations, SouthCoast Wind disputed the claims in Ciochetto’s “highly unusual email communication,” noting the company had been and would continue to conduct its permitting and siting efforts with transparency and good faith.”

“SouthCoast Wind has and will continue to work closely with federal and state regulators to satisfy their questions and concerns about this complex multi-jurisdictional project,” wrote Christian Capizzo, the lead attorney for the project. “The email is factually inaccurate and attributes statements to SouthCoast Wind and its counsel that were never made.”

In a separate email to the EFSB, also dated July 7, CRMC executive director Jeff Willis said Ciochetto’s email “was not authorized by the CRMC.” Willis did note that SouthCoast Wind’s permit application had not been officially accepted by the agency, citing missing information on the application such as upland site control.

Meanwhile, the attorney for FAB, Marisa Desautel, wrote in an email dated July 10 that “no substantive mitigation meetings have been held between FAB and this developer.”

According to Desautel, the board and its experts have worked to execute a retainer agreement since January, and despite both parties exchanging 25 versions of the agreement, nothing has been signed.

The emails, ultimately, mattered little when the EFSB made its July 13 decision. In comments before the vote, Gerwatowski noted the company had failed to disclose in the show-cause hearing or after about the status of the CRMC application.

“We didn’t have that information in any event at this point,” he said. “I don’t believe that information affects the decision we’re making here today.”


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  1. SouthCoast Wind, in New England, is a joint venture between Shell and Ocean Winds

    Shell is exploring selling a stake in its green energy business

  2. Good!!!

    The siting on Cox Ledge & south of Martha’s Vineyard are prime whale as well as shark migration routes & feeding & fishing “hot spots”.

    Recreational & commercial fishermen & women are gravely affected by such ill-considered siting.

    Save The Bay has strenuously opposed the siting of this project for these very reasons & more ( The Town of Portsmouth, RI and it’s citizenry has rejected having South coast Wind cross it’s borders with an underground energy cable. Now, the EFSB has suspended licencing until SCW can prove the project is financially sound & viable.

    Three strikes – y’ur OUT!!!

    I am staunchly supportive of alternative, renewable energy, when sited properly & not at the expense of highly endangered marine mammals, sharks, commercial fishermen. Not to mention bird strikes!

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