The initial wind turbine that’s part of America’s first larger-scale offshore commercial wind farm has started delivering power.
Located 15 miles from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, the Vineyard Wind project’s vanguard blades started turning at 11:52 p.m. Jan. 2, culminating years of planning and construction, according to a news release from the operator.
The first turbine provided 5 megawatts of electricity to New England’s grid. Once experts finish some testing, they expect to have five towers catching wind early this year. The goal is for the project to have 62 turbines that produce the power equivalent needed for 400,000 homes and businesses, all per the release.
“We’ve arrived at a watershed moment for climate action in the U.S., and a dawn for the American offshore wind industry,” Avangrid Renewables CEO Pedro Azagra said in the release.
While it’s one of the country’s first operating offshore wind projects, it’s not novel elsewhere on the planet. At the end of 2022, there were offshore systems off the coasts of three continents, including 19 countries. Those wind farms represented 7.1% of the planet’s “wind power installation” at the time, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.
Renewable energy generates about 20% of America’s electricity. Wind leads the way for cleaner power sources, at 9.2%, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy. And federal energy officials expect the renewable percentage to continue to grow as we develop more sustainable and cleaner ways to power homes and buildings.
In fact, President Joe Biden’s administration gave the nod in November to the Empire Wind project south of Long Island, New York. A government news release estimated that the project will power more than 700,000 homes (the project website is more ambitious, mentioning “potentially” a million). It’s the sixth commercial-scale offshore wind system approved by the administration, all per the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Offshore construction on Vineyard Wind started in 2022, with key infrastructure being completed last summer. The power is sent to the grid via underground cables that connect to a substation. The project created hundreds of union jobs during construction, the release stated.
Impressively, the operators say the project will save customers $1.4 billion during its first two decades. What’s more, Vineyard Wind should cut air pollution by more than 1.7 million tons annually. That’s like removing 325,000 gas-guzzling vehicles from our roads, per the release.
“Cape Cod is extremely vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise, and therefore it is fitting that our region will lead the nation in the development of offshore wind to green our electric grid,” state Rep. Sarah K. Peake said in the release.
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