The Vineyard Wind project’s first turbine delivered power to Massachusetts for the first time this week, a key milestone for the United States’ first large-scale commercial offshore wind farm. Once completed, the site will generate 806 megawatts (MW), enough power for 400,000 New England homes and businesses.
Construction on Vineyard Wind, located about 12 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, began in late 2021. Once fully built out, the project will have 62 wind turbines spaced 1 nautical mile apart. The first five will be fully operational in early 2024.
“For the first time we have power flowing to the American consumers from a commercial-scale wind project, which marks the dawn of a new era for American renewables and the green transition,” Tim Evans, partner for North America at renewable energy investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), said in a news release. “By delivering first power, we have broken new ground and shown a viable path forward with power that is renewable, locally produced and affordable.”
Through a long-term power purchase agreement, Vineyard Wind will provide power to National Grid, Eversource and Unitil Corp. In the first 20 years of operation, the wind farm is estimated to save ratepayers $1.4 billion and reduce carbon emissions by 1.6 million tons annually, which amounts to removing 325,000 vehicles off the road.
In October, the joint venture behind the project – sustainable energy company Avangrid Inc. and CIP – secured $1.2 billion in capital in a historic tax equity package with three U.S. banks.
“We are continuing to make history with this first-in-the-nation project,” Avangrid CEO Pedro Azagra said in a news release. “Finalizing this tax equity transaction is a critical milestone in executing the financing plan for Vineyard Wind 1. It will allow us to continue financing the project to make it operational. We are now one step closer to delivering clean, renewable offshore wind energy to Massachusetts homes and businesses.”
The first U.S. wind farm became operational in 2016 about 4 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. The Block Island wind farm has five turbines that produce 30 MW of power, or enough for 17,000 households and businesses.
The second wind farm opened will be fully built by 2026 off the coast of Virginia. Two wind turbines are currently operational but at full build-out, the site will have 150 turbines with the capacity to produce 2.6 gigawatts of power.
Other projects are also in the works over the next several years as several states are beginning or in negotiations to expand offshore wind energy production.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is planning to auction two federally owned wind farms in 2024 to increase renewable energy production on public lands and waters.
These efforts are intended to help the U.S. reach renewable energy production goals to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
In late 2023, the state of New York also made major headway on its offshore project at South Fork Wind. In December, the first offshore turbine became operational, and all 12 turbines are expected to be operational by early 2024 to produce 130 MW of energy to power about 70,000 Long Island homes.
“Today marks a significant step towards implementing Gov. [Kathy] Hochul’s vision of a sustainable and resilient energy future for New York,” Long Island Power Authority CEO, Thomas Falcone said in a news release in December. “Nearly eight years in the making, this first offshore wind turbine-producing energy transforms that vision into a reality. LIPA is proud to support this landmark project on behalf of our 1.2 million customers on Long Island and in the Rockaways.”
The South Fork Wind project – produced through a joint venture with Orsted and Eversource – is being touted as the first utility-scale offshore wind farm and will help support New York’s goal to install 9 GW of wind power by 2025. The wind farm, located about 35 nautical miles from Montauk, also will have the nation’s first American-built offshore wind substation constructed in Texas.
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Photo by Alex DeCiccio