Start of construction for America’s first large offshore wind farm


This photo, taken on June 13, 2017, shows the Block Island wind farm, Rhode Island.

David L. Ryan | Boston Globe | Getty Images

The groundbreaking ceremony for what has been dubbed the United States’ “first commercial-scale offshore wind farm”.

The start of construction on Thursday is another step forward for America’s young offshore wind industry. The 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind 1 turbine is located 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard, near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and hopes to start sending electricity to the grid in 2023.

Vineyard Wind 1 is being built by Vineyard Wind LLC, a 50-50 joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables. The latter is a subsidiary of Avangrid, which is 81.5% owned by Iberdrola, a major energy company headquartered in Spain.

According to Vineyard Wind, Covell’s Beach in Barnstable is “the place where two cables meet land and connect to the grid at a substation farther inland on Cape Cod.” The wind farm will use 62 of General Electric’s giant Haliade-X turbines and produce electricity for over 400,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts, it said.

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The project aims to reduce CO2 emissions by over 1.6 million tons annually. That’s the equivalent of removing 325,000 cars a year from the road, Vineyard Wind said.

“The US offshore wind industry makes huge promises both for job creation and for reducing carbon emissions. Partners and co-founders of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, said.

“CIP is excited to be part of this first project and we look forward to continuing to invest in and grow the offshore wind industry in the United States,” said Skakkebæk.

Elsewhere, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environment Kathleen Theoharides said that “the start of onshore construction for the Vineyard Wind Project marks the beginning of an historic new chapter for this industry in the United States.”

While the US is home to a well-developed onshore wind industry, the country’s first offshore wind turbine, the 30 MW Block Island wind farm, did not go into commercial operation until late 2016.

In March 2021, the Departments of Energy, Home Affairs and Trade announced that they would deliver 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, a move that should create thousands of jobs and free billions of dollars in investment.

Despite these plans, the US still has a long way to go before catching up with more mature offshore wind markets like the one in Europe.

According to WindEurope, the industry there attracted 26.3 billion euros (around 29.7 billion US dollars) in financing for new offshore wind projects last year. In 2020, 2.9 GW of offshore wind capacity was installed in Europe, according to the industry association.

As the US tries to increase its offshore wind capacity, the challenge of moving away from fossil fuels is enormous. As recently as this week, the US held an auction for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January instructing the Home Secretary to stop new oil and gas leases on public land and begin a thorough review of existing fossil fuel development permits.

But in June a federal judge in Louisiana issued an injunction to block the government’s suspension and ordered plans for lease sales that were delayed for the Gulf and Alaska Waters to continue.

The US Department of Justice is calling on an appeals court to overturn the judge’s order.

—Emma Newburger of CNBC contributed to this report