‘Steel in the water’: Offshore wind farm construction begins off Mass. coast

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm has officially begun.

On Wednesday, the first monopiles and transition pieces of the turbine foundations boarded a heavy lift vessel named ORION, according to Vineyard Wind. Crews will transport these pieces to create 62 wind turbine foundations in an area 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

The company says these turbines will be capable of supplying power to 400,000 Massachusetts homes.

“We can finally say it – as of today, there is ‘steel in the water,’” said Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus S. Moeller. “Over the next few months, we’ll be working hand in glove with the Building Trades and our contractors to ensure the work is done safely and efficiently.”

ORION, which is being operated by Dredging Environmental and Marine Engineering (DEME), will make several trips over the coming months transporting the equipment from New Bedford to the area offshore Martha’s Vineyard. The vessel will be manned by local union piledrivers who received specialized training to begin the scope of work, according to the company.

The plan is for the wind farm to be fully operational by 2024.

“We’re thrilled to see this historic project move one step closer to completion and committed to supporting the offshore wind industry across the state,” Governor Maura Healey said in a statement. “Our administration is grateful for the important work being done by Vineyard Wind, Avangrid, CIP, DEME and labor partners to bring clean, affordable energy to Massachusetts.”

The Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rebecca Tepper also echoed their elation with the historic project.

“The offshore wind industry has officially landed in Massachusetts waters and we’re excited for what comes next,” she said. “Each of these 62 platforms form the foundation of our clean, affordable energy future. I want to congratulate the workers who are making this possible.”

The project is not without its detractors. There are still concerns about how large turbines in the ocean can affect the local wildlife.

Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a national coalition, says “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.”

Another local group based in Nantucket is concerned over the wind farm’s effects on the right whale population, an endangered species.

Vineyard Winds says they’ve deployed the OSV Atlantic Oceanic and the Northstar Navigator to deploy a primary and secondary bubble curtain designed to absorb and dampen sound during the foundation installation so as not to disturb the wildlife in the area.

The company says they also are deploying a Passive Acoustic Monitoring system, comprised of fixed buoys, “to characterize the presence of marine mammals by detecting vocalizations.”

“DEME Offshore has contracted with local US vessels and crews to be deployed for mitigation of noise emissions as well as marine mammal observations,” said Sid Florey, President DEME Offshore US.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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