Sector News

First major U.S. wind farm construction begins off Massachusetts—and more are coming

June 11, 2023

Construction began on the foundation of the first of 62 nearly 850-foot-tall turbines as part of the Vineyard Wind I project, the country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, roughly 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, the company announced Wednesday.

Vineyard Wind, which was first approved for a nearly 167,000-acre federal lease site from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in 2015, is one of nine proposed offshore wind farms south of Massachusetts and Rhode Island leased through the federal government (totaling roughly 742,000 acres)—part of President Joe Biden’s goal of creating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 and an instrumental part of his ambitious goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Developers of the Vineyard Wind project say the 800-megawatt project will generate enough electricity for more than 400,000 homes in Massachusetts and save electricity customers roughly $1.4 billion over its first 20 years of operation, though it’s faced opposition over potential environmental degradation, as well as aesthetic and navigational concerns.

Vineyard Wind is expected to be completed by the end of the year, making it the first major offshore wind project completed—smaller operations have been built off Block Island, Rhode Island, and another off Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The new project faced multiple slowdowns, largely after a group of residents on Nantucket sued to block the project over concerns it could imperil the dwindling population of the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale (the suit was rejected last month).

BOEM has also carved out another 800,000 acres off the coast of Long Island and New Jersey, and 1.7 million acres spanning from Delaware to North Carolina. In February, the Biden Administration announced three more lease sites in the Gulf of Mexico off Lake Charles, Louisiana, and two off the shore of Galveston, Texas. The White House also announced $50 million in funding to research floating offshore wind turbines off the coast of California, Maine and Oregon. A second project off Martha’s Vineyard called SouthCoast Wind expects to deliver energy through an undersea cable by “the end of the 2020s,” while another project with a lease site south of Massachusetts, Commonwealth Wind, is expected to come on line in 2028.

Although offshore wind has been largely praised by Democrats for providing an alternative to fossil fuels and as a way to create thousands of jobs, a slew of conservative lawmakers have slammed the initiative, including a trio of GOP House members from New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania, who called for a halt to offshore wind this week amid a series of whale deaths off the East Coast. A group of 30 mayors in New Jersey also called for a moratorium on offshore wind activity due to an unusual number of humpback whale deaths—though those whale deaths have been attributed primarily to vessel strikes, and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has not found any evidence pointing to construction of wind turbines causing whale mortalities.

by Brian Bushard


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