The nation's first large-scale offshore wind farm started spinning its blades on January 2nd. The wind project, known as Vineyard Wind 1, began operations near Martha's Vineyard 15 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, delivering approximately five megawatts of electricity to the New England grid. Vineyard Wind planned to have the first five turbines fully operational by the end of 2023, however the company currently has one turbine fully operational and plans to have five turbines operating at full capacity in early 2024. Vineyard Wind is a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. This milestone marks the first time a commercial-scale wind project has supplied power to American consumers.

When running at full blast, Vineyard Wind 1 will consist of 62 turbines, each spaced a mile apart and rising over 800 feet out of the water. In total, the project will generate 800 megawatts and supply enough electricity for 400,000 homes. The company hopes to complete Vineyard Wind 1 sometime in 2024. Before the launch of this project, there only existed a total of seven turbines in American waters, generating around 42 megawatts.

The winds are picking up in the offshore industry, and Vineyard Wind is not the only player. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are currently seeking bids for another 3,600 megawatts of offshore wind power. South Fork Wind, a smaller project near Long Island, began producing electricity in December and aims to generate around 132 megawatts of power with 12 turbines when complete. Previously, Cape Wind proposed a 450 megawatt wind farm near Cape Cod in the early 2000s that ultimately failed due to environmental and aesthetic concerns.

Vineyard Wind has faced some strong headwinds to get here. It won Massachusetts' first round of offshore wind project bids in 2018, but the federal permitting process delayed progress. In 2019, the Trump administration refused to sign off on the project's design, and the Biden administration only resumed the permitting process in 2021. Vineyard Wind 1 got full federal approval in May 2021 and secured financing a few months later. Construction began in 2022 both onshore and offshore, including the laying of miles of subsea electrical cables from the project site to Covell's Beach on Cape Cod.

In addition to the permitting and attendant construction delays, groups representing fishermen along the east coast also had launched four lawsuits to stop the project in 2021 and 2022, claiming among other things that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had failed to adequately evaluate the project's potential impact on local fishermen and marine mammals. By October 2023, the various challenges were dismissed, but they remain on appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.1


1. See Responsible Offshore Development Alliance v. United States Dept. of the Interior, et al., 1:22-cv-11172, appeal docketed, No. 23-2051 (1st Cir. Dec. 14, 2023); Seafreeze Shoreside, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, 1:22-cv-11091, appeal docketed, No. 23-1853 (1st Cir. Oct. 20, 2023); Melone v. Coit, et al., 1:21-cv-11171-IT, appeal docketed, No. 23-1736 (1st Cir. Sept. 8, 2023); Nantucket Residents Against Turbines et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Mgmt., 1:21-cv-11390-IT, appeal docketed, No. 23-1501 (1st Cir. June 13, 2023).

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