Image credit: Vineyard Wind

Vineyard Wind, a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), has passed the final major step in the federal review process, which means it will likely become the first commercial scale offshore wind farm in the United States.  

This final major federal approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will enable the developers to begin construction later this year. Avangrid said the approval represents the beginning of an energy transition in New England where clean power will be created by harnessing the region’s strong coastal winds.

“Today’s Record of Decision is not about the start of a single project, but the launch of a new industry,” said Vineyard Wind CEO Lars T. Pedersen.

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“Receiving this final major federal approval means the jobs, economic benefits and clean energy revolution associated with the Vineyard Wind 1 project can finally come to fruition.  It’s been a long road to get to this point,” he added.

Since 2017, the Vineyard Wind 1 project has been through an unprecedented and exhaustive public review process that generated more than 30,000 public comments, more than 90% of which supported the project. The Construction and Operations Plan (COP) was reviewed by more than two dozen federal, state, and local agencies over the course of more than three and a half years. 

The project design includes the GE Haliade-X, with a capacity of 13MW. The larger turbine capacity has allowed the project to reduce the total number of turbines from 108 to 62 while still delivering a total capacity of 800MW to Massachusetts customers. The turbine layout, which features consistent spacing of one nautical mile between turbines, was endorsed by the United States Coast Guard for transit, fishing and navigational safety.

“We are very excited and proud to be part of the birth of an incredibly important new industry,” said AVANGRID CEO Dennis V. Arriola. “We appreciate the thorough review by BOEM as well as the considerable input from stakeholders. The broad engagement from many parties throughout this process has improved the project and positioned both Vineyard Wind 1 and the broader offshore wind industry for long-term success,” he added.

In response to comments and direct engagement with neighboring communities, environmental organizations and advocates, fisheries organizations, and governmental and tribal entities, the project has incorporated significant mitigation measures, including:

Protections for the North Atlantic Right Whale (NARW):

  • Commitment to invest millions of dollars to develop and deploy innovative technologies and undertake scientific research to further safeguard marine mammals. 
  • Institute comprehensive monitoring protocols to ensure that construction doesn’t take place when NARWs are near the lease area. 
  • Deploy technology to dampen construction noise during installation in order to protect the NARW and all marine species.

Fisheries Investment and Mitigation Funding:

  • Agreements with the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island to provide millions to compensate fishermen for potential loss of revenue and gear and to enhance their ability to fish in and around the lease area 
  • Commitment to continue funding pre- and post-construction survey studies with both the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) and the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) to measure what impact, if any, the windfarm is having on the marine environment.   

Cultural and Historical Protections:

  • Install an Aircraft Detection Lighting System (ALDS) to ensure that nighttime lights will only operate a few hours a year when aircrafts are present
  • Paint turbines to reduce visual impacts to historical properties 
  • Allocate funds to conduct ethnographic studies for local Native American Tribes that will serve as the basis for submissions to the National Register of Historic Places to allow for greater recognition of tribal heritage sites.

“Massachusetts should be proud that this decision launches the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project here on the Commonwealth’s shores,” said Governor Charlie Baker. 

“This groundbreaking project will produce affordable, renewable energy, create jobs and prove Massachusetts developed a successful model for developing offshore wind energy.  We appreciate the federal government’s partnership to grant this approval and look forward to working with Vineyard Wind to create thousands of jobs and set the Commonwealth on a path to achieve Net Zero emissions.”

Prior to construction, Vineyard Wind must submit a facility design report and a fabrication and installation report. These engineering and technical reports provide specific details for how the facility will be fabricated and installed in accordance with the approved Construction and Operations Plan.

Originally published on renewableenergyworld.com