SouthCoast Wind Energy LLC petitioned the Rhode Island Supreme Court on July 28. SouthCoast said that the unanimous decision of the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board to suspend the review of the project’s permit application for its offshore power cable traversing the state “is contrary to law and should be vacated.”

SouthCoast Wind’s 149-turbine, 1,200-megawatt offshore wind farm project planned for federal waters over 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 20 miles south of Nantucket is in limbo. Power was to be delivered to several Massachusetts utilities until the company determined its power purchase agreements generated inadequate revenues to finance the project, so it moved to terminate the agreements.

While the project is for Massachusetts customers, the plan calls for the underwater power cable to run from the wind farm through Rhode Island waters to reach land at Somerset, Mass., and its Brayton Point interconnection with the Independent System Operator (ISO) – New England’s electricity grid serving the region. Therefore, the cable needs a permit from Rhode Island to enter and cross the state’s waters and land. 

When the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board (RIEFSB) learned of SouthCoast Wind’s plan to terminate its PPAs and rebid its project (at a higher price) in 2024’s Massachusetts’ offshore power requisition, it held a “show cause” hearing for why the board should not suspend the permit application review. The June hearing confirmed what the board had learned and after deliberation, it voted to suspend the review. The board reasoned that without assurance SouthCoast Wind would secure PPAs next year that would ensure the project’s financeability, the board should pause the review until October 2024. This would prevent the board from using its limited staff and resources on an application that might not become a viable project.

In its filing with the Rhode Island Supreme Court, SouthCoast Wind said nothing in the state’s Energy Facility Siting Act requires a PPA to be in place for an application to be considered. Therefore, the board erred in its decision. 

Without a PPA, developers are not going to build an offshore wind farm.

In the case of SouthCoast Wind’s appeal, it is relying on the state clean energy mandate to push for why the review should go forward. Why? I suspect that having the cable permit in hand would strengthen SouthCoast Wind’s bidding and PPA negotiating position next year. What we didn’t see was an offer from SouthCoast Wind to reimburse RIEFSB for the cost of the permit review if the company was unsuccessful in securing a bid and successfully negotiating PPAs next year.

G. Allen Brooks is an energy analyst. In his over 50-year career in energy and investment, he has served as an energy security analyst, oil service company manager, and a member of the board of directors for several oilfield service companies.

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