By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
Fishermen and Vineyard Wind have agreed to a deadline for settling their financial differences over a compensation package for the 92-square-mile offshore wind facility.
After three months of stalled and at times heated discussions, Vineyard Wind, the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and its Fishermen’s Advisory Board (FAB) agreed to negotiate a mitigation package last week with hopes of reaching an agreement by Feb. 25.
In a deal signed Feb. 8, the three parties said they would abide by the new deadline and not argue for more time.
Time has been a contentious topic for the wind project slated for a federal wind zone south of Martha’s Vineyard. Last week, the FAB publicly called for more time to review and negotiate the $6.2 compensation offer from Vineyard Wind. The committee of Rhode Island commercial fishermen only received the offer on Jan. 16 and needed to hire an attorney and financial analyst to review the offer.
Vineyard Wind is in a hurry for approval from state and federal regulators so that the 800-megawatt project can break water this year and still qualify for a federal tax credit.
After two delays, the FAB was supposed to vote on the offer Feb. 11, followed by a vote on the project by the CRMC board on Feb. 12. Both meetings were postponed.
Environmentalists have been encouraging backers of the offshore wind project to show their support at the Feb. 12 meeting. They say the turbines’ foundations will attract significant sea life.
“Each turbine is designed specifically for the piece of ocean floor on which it is anchored. This is for efficiency and environmental protection and the main reason why the fishermen's demands to reconfigure the layout of the turbines cannot be fully met,” according to an e-mail from Climate Action Rhode Island.
Meanwhile, hearings sponsored by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) resume this week. The meetings will review a draft of BOEM’s environmental impact statement for the 84-turbine project.
The power-purchase agreement between National Grid and Ørsted US Offshore Wind, formerly Deepwater Wind, was finally announced. The price of 9.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, fixed for 20 years, shows just how far the cost of wind energy has fallen.
The five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm operates on a 20-year power deal that starts at 24 cents per kilowatt-hour, with a 3.5 percent annual increase.
Vineyard Wind, a project about twice the size of Revolution Wind, has a power purchase contract about 1-cent less than Revolution Wind.
If permitting for Revolution Wind stays on track, construction of the offshore wind project is expected to begin in 2020 and finish by 2023. The 400-megawatt electricity capacity will generate power equal to a quarter of Rhode Island’s electric use.
The annual emissions reductions will be equivalent to 100,000 passenger vehicles taken off the roads.
On the economic front, the project is estimated to create 800 jobs. In the coming weeks, Ørsted plans to announce how it will invest $250 million on the project, including $40 million for improving Rhode Island ports and funds for job training and education.
A 120-day review of the power-purchase contract by the state Public Utilities Commission began Feb. 7. Public hearing dates are forthcoming.