Dukes County

Construction of the nation’s first large-scale wind farm now underway off the Massachusetts coast

MARTHA'S VINEYARD — Construction of the country’s first commercial wind farm is going into high gear.

Vineyard Wind is right off the Massachusetts coastline, about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Comprised of 62 turbines, Vineyard Wind will be capable of supplying power to 400,000 Massachusetts homes.

A 40-acre pier in New Bedford is ground zero for building the wind farm.

Workers are preparing the site by bringing in large equipment like a huge crane and pieces of turbines.

Vineyard Wind executive Jennifer Cullen says the state’s coastline is ideal for wind power.

“We have very good wind. We have this wind that is close to load centers, so you really want to create the electricity closer to where it will be used . . . and we also have really aging energy infrastructure along the East Coast and a lot of power plants that are going offline.”

Earlier this year, two large cables which will bring the power to the mainland came on shore at Covell’s Beach in Barnstable.

Today, the parking lot is re-paved and there is no sign of what is underground.

The goal is to have electricity flowing by the end of the year, and to be fully operational in 2024.

It’s been a long haul getting offshore wind started in Massachusetts.

Cape Wind tried to do it 20 years ago and could not make it happen.

Even today, there are still concerns about how large turbines in the ocean could affect the environment.

One group based in Nantucket is fighting the project over potential harm to right whales, an endangered species.

The fishing community is also vocal about fears their livelihood could be negatively affected.

A national coalition called the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance says on their website: “There are opportunities for mutual wins, however, offshore wind development is an ocean use that directly conflicts with fishing and primary food production, while imposing significant impacts on marine habitats, biodiversity, and physical oceanography.”

State Representative Jeffrey Roy, the co-chair of the committee that oversees energy policy, told Boston 25 News the state has to “get off fossil fuels in the 27 years.”

That’s according to a law that requires the state to have net zero emissions by 2050.

“We have an opportunity to put the brakes on global warming and offshore wind is one of the most exciting things. The Vineyard Wind project itself will take the equivalent of 325,000 cars off the road. That’s incredible.”

Energy independence would free consumers up from disruptions in the energy supply, like what happened with natural gas prices after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Our initial estimates say that ratepayers will save a billion dollars over the lifetime of the project, so that’s 20 years,” explained Andrew Doba, a spokesperson for Vineyard Wind. “You’ve got a set price.”

So, it’s just not susceptible to those fluctuations in the commodity market.

Several other offshore wind farm projects are expected to be built off the Massachusetts coast right after Vineyard Wind.

Representative Roy told Boston 25 News all these projects will have mitigation plans for the fishing community and fishermen will have a seat on the commission overseeing these issues moving forward.

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