Vineyard Ocean Energy Management Office,
Vineyard Wind last week received the Record of Decision from the United States Department of the Interior / Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the last major approval needed in the federal review process that will see it become the first offshore wind farm in the world. commercial scale in the country.
Located on 160,000 acres 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, the project, when completed, will generate clean, renewable energy for more than 400,000 homes and businesses across the Commonwealth, while reducing carbon emissions by more than $ 1, 6 million tonnes per year.
Vineyard Wind is a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.
A public review process launched by the company in 2017 generated more than 30,000 public comments, over 90% of which supported the project, according to Vineyard Wind. Its construction and operation plan has been reviewed by more than two dozen federal, state and local agencies over the past three and a half years.
The previous administration had blocked the review process, keeping intact its well-documented and lucrative financial ties to the highly polluting fossil fuel industry, but with the Biden administration came a renewed commitment to offshore wind power. with the aim of doubling the production of renewable energy at sea in the next 10 years.
Conservationists, environmentalists and local lawmakers have welcomed Vineyard Wind’s decision.
Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, applauded the federal government for the decision “and the Biden administration for resetting our national policy in favor of renewable energy and the development of the offshore wind industry.” The Record of Decision for Vineyard Wind is a historic day for our nation. “
Gottlieb noted that Vineyard Wind’s plan includes commitments to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and other rare species.
North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 400 people estimated to be alive today. Many Cape Codders are rightly concerned about this and support efforts to protect the species.
We are among them, and we are confident that Vineyard Wind’s commitment to protecting marine life will strike the right balance between the need for renewable energy and the need to protect right whales from damage in the concession area as ‘they go up and down along the territory. The East Coast and marine environmentalists will follow closely.
For example, the company has committed to having comprehensive monitoring protocols in place to ensure that construction does not take place when right whales are in the vicinity of the concession area.
It says it will use acoustic monitoring technology throughout construction, including in transit corridors, and will employ trained protective species observers to visually spot right whales during transits and foundation installation.
It will also deploy advanced technology to mitigate construction noise during installation to protect the right whale and all marine life.
Congressman Bill Keating (D-Ninth District), who represents New Bedford, Cape Cod and the Islands, responded to the news: “What a difference six months makes. We have worked so hard to get to this point and I commend Vineyard Wind for maintaining their commitment to the region in the face of the challenges after challenges of the previous administration. This move means we will have good clean energy jobs on our shores and a new generation of economic growth that will reduce our carbon footprint.
Vineyard Wind estimates that it will create more than 3,000 jobs over the life of the project and save energy consumers $ 1.4 billion in its first 20 years of operation.
According to the company’s website, its project design now includes the powerful GE Haliade-X wind turbine, with a capacity of 13 megawatts. Using more turbine capacity allowed the project to reduce the total number of turbines from 108 to 62, while providing a total capacity of 800 megawatts to Massachusetts taxpayers.
The turbine layout, with one nautical mile spacing between the turbines, has been approved by the United States Coast Guard for transit, fishing, and shipping safety.
Realizing that some groups of fishermen have hesitated over his project, Vineyard Wind’s proposal includes investments in fishing and mitigation funding.
Vineyard Wind has entered into agreements with Massachusetts and Rhode Island to provide millions of dollars to compensate fishermen for potential loss of income and gear and to improve their ability to fish in and around the concession area.
He also pledged to continue funding pre-construction and post-construction survey studies with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology and the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association to measure the impact, if any, of the wind farm on the marine environment.
Finally, Vineyard Wind has pledged cultural and historical protections, such as painting the turbines to reduce visual impacts on historic properties, and allocating funds for ethnographic studies for local Native American tribes that will serve as the basis for submissions to the. National Register of Historic Places. , allowing better recognition of tribal heritage sites.
According to the company’s power transmission plan, submarine cables will be installed along a route from the project site to a land-based landing point, buried up to six feet below the ocean floor. The route was designed after a geological survey of the area to avoid as many sensitive areas as possible.
Land cables will be buried along proposed routes at Barnstable.
From the land cable landing site, the route will extend to a grid connection point inland. The route will be primarily underground along public roads, but includes segments in other previously disturbed corridors, such as an existing utility right-of-way, says Vineyard Wind.
Construction is expected to begin in the fall and the turbines could start producing electricity as early as 2023.
Along with the obvious benefits in helping to mitigate the staggering effects of climate change, this project will hopefully inspire further clean energy developments across the country, on land and at sea.