America’s first large offshore wind farm set to be built off Martha’s Vineyard – CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) – In the world of wind, there are gentle breezes and gales in their own right. A project developing south of Martha’s Vineyard is the latter. After years and years of exploring and attempting to harness New England’s mighty offshore wind, Vineyard Wind is on federal license to build the first commercial scale offshore wind farm in the United States.
Lars Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, calls our offshore region “the Saudi Arabia of offshore wind” because of the extremely consistent nature of the wind here. Not just the big storms we’re famous for, but the daily wind without many calm seasons. His company is poised to become the first to harness some of that power.
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The project is expected to be built 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, which contrasts with Cape Wind’s failed proposal which was located in Nantucket Sound between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. One of the main points of contention with Cape Wind was the fact that the owners did not want to have turbines in their day-to-day view, and the position of Nantucket Sound would have been in the view of many more eyeballs.
Further offshore, the 62 turbines will be massive. The blades, manufactured by General Electric, are the largest in the world. Each of them is longer than a football field, and Pedersen says that just two turns of a blade can power a house for an entire day. The 62 together, operating at full capacity, will provide enough energy to power 400,000 homes. Cables laid several feet below the sea floor will travel north to Cape Cod, where they will meet land at Covell’s Beach in Barnstable and enter the New England power grid.
Going further was a piece of the puzzle to get the green light for the project, but another concern came from local fishermen. To create safer shipping lanes, the turbines will be spaced further apart than all others on earth, a full nautical mile between each.
So far, progress in wind power has been extremely slow. There are only seven wind turbines located in federal waters across the entire United States. But when you search for successful sites, there are few more lucrative than the waters just off the mid-Atlantic and New England. Three reasons make it a target for offshore wind developers. The constant wind that turns the turbines, the shallow water that makes construction easier, and the large population nearby to provide electricity.
Companies like Vineyard Wind hope this will be the first of many projects over the next few years. Pedersen says it’s as much an initiative for jobs as it is for the production of renewable energy.
“Revitalizing ports, creating jobs, we see this as the first of many steps in building an industry,” he told WBZ-TV.
To this end, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy plans to help anyone related to this growing industry. A course taught at the academy can certify anyone doing offshore work, and this certification is recognized internationally.
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Captain Michael Burns told WBZ that there is undeniable momentum in the offshore wind business and it will require a diverse group of people.
“Obviously, the people involved in the construction, the scientific staff studying marine life, as well as the offshore wind technicians who do the operation and maintenance after everything is built,” he said.
Burns mentioned the importance of open water safety and that some will try it for the first time.
“These are extremely isolated environments,” Burns said, “and they have to be very well trained and know how to rescue themselves if something goes wrong.”
All state and local permits were approved for the project after four years of review, and this last item, called a “decision record,” is expected in a few weeks. If this is received, funding will be stepped up and Vineyard Wind hopes to begin construction ashore by the end of this year.
The Vineyard Wind hub will become the shipping trade terminal in New Bedford.
“I was born in Denmark, the land of Legos,” Pedersen said. “So the Lego pieces will come in. Lots of people take care of construction, cranes, transport, transport it all on barges so that they can be moved to ships offshore and set up.
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From there, offshore work would begin in 2022, with the first power produced reaching the New England power grid in 2023. The Biden administration has set a target of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, this which would require around 30 similar decade projects.