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Federal headwinds buffet offshore wind projects

The Trump administration: A Platts news and analysis feature

By Mark Watson

Published online 17 January 2017

Even before a Trump administration takes office, federal headwinds are impeding offshore wind generation progress on the East Coast, but New York may come to the rescue with a power purchase agreement tentatively slated for a vote this month.

The US Department of Energy has "initiated the close-out process for" the Fishermen's Energy Atlantic City Windfarm, which the DOE has funded with about $10.6 million for preliminary work, according to Associated Press reports.

Fisherman's Energy had proposed a six-turbine wind farm with a nameplate capacity of 24 MW, 2.8 miles offshore from Atlantic City, New Jersey, in about 12 meters of water.

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The DOE had pledged in 2014 to provide another $37 million, but the project missed a December 31 deadline to "have secured an offtake agreement to be eligible for another round of funding," a DOE spokesperson said in an email Wednesday.

Efforts on Wednesday to reach a representative of Fishermen's Energy were unsuccessful.

Long Island projects at risk: enviros

Meanwhile, environmentalists on Long Island have expressed concern that the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to revive the coal industry and ramp up domestic fossil-fuel production, may stop a couple of wind projects off the New York coast, according to a National Public Radio report on Monday.

One of those projects would be on an 80,000-acre area 12 miles off the south coast of Long Island, in an area for which Statoil Wind US won the wind development rights at a cost of about $42.5 million. Statoil Wind US is a limited liability company owned by Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil. The US Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management completed the auction in mid-December.

Nancy Sopko, American Wind Energy Association manager for advocacy and federal legislative affairs, said the wind industry has "the wind at our backs" and pointed out that Statoil "made that investment weeks after the election."

"We think the president-elect will want to keep growing all sources of American-made Energy, as promised on the campaign trail," Sopko said in an email Wednesday.

Utility in talks for power purchase agreement

Another one of those New York-area wind projects is owned by Deepwater Wind, a Providence, Rhode Island, company which is in negotiation with the Long Island Power Authority for power from a proposed 90-MW South Fork Wind Farm, 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, New York. In December, Deepwater Wind started commercial production from the 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm, the nation's first offshore wind project off the coast of Rhode Island.

LIPA is tentatively slated to vote on January 25 on a power purchase agreement for the Deepwater Wind project off the Long Island coast, said Matthew Cordaro, a LIPA trustee who was speaking on his own behalf, not for the organization as a whole.

Timothy Fox, a vice president and research analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, an energy market consultancy, said the Block Island project's commercial operation is "an important milestone," but "we are skeptical that the US is on a cusp of significant offshore wind buildout."

"Block Island benefits from state and local community support, and its relatively small footprint drew limited opposition," Fox said in an email Wednesday. "As a result, we do not expect the next project to shortly follow. Donald Trump's accession to the White House and the current economics of offshore wind suggest to us that its deployment in the US will remain state-policy driven, at least in the short term. Massachusetts is the only state with an offshore wind mandate, though New York appears interested in the resource."

AWEA's Sopko said, "Federal support is important, but ambitious state policies passed by Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and others will continue to attract more job-creating investment in offshore wind."

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