The US makes a historic leap into large-scale offshore wind power, energizing its green ambitions.
The United States has marked a significant milestone in its renewable energy journey with the commencement of its first large-scale offshore wind project. Situated off the Massachusetts coast, the Vineyard Wind development initiated power production, aligning with President Joe Biden's vision of expanding coastal wind turbines to address climate change.
Initiated on a Tuesday, the first turbine of the Vineyard Wind project began generating approximately 5MW of power for the New England grid. The project, currently in its early stages with one turbine operational, aims to have five turbines running shortly, with an ultimate goal of 62 turbines. Once fully operational, it's expected to supply electricity to around 400,000 homes.
Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey hailed this development as a landmark achievement for the American offshore wind industry, acknowledging the efforts of advocates, public servants, union workers, and business leaders in realizing this clean and affordable energy source.
The US has been relatively slow in developing offshore wind energy compared to other nations. However, President Biden has shown strong support for this sector. The White House has set an ambitious goal to deploy 30GW of offshore wind by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes with clean energy. Several projects are currently in the pipeline.
Vineyard Wind, located about 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard, is the largest such project to date. Its launch represents a significant breakthrough for offshore wind and the broader renewable industry in North America, according to Tim Evans, a partner at Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, one of the developers alongside Avangrid.
This progress comes over a year after the start of assembling and installing the 850ft-tall turbines in the ocean. It follows the recent initiation of a smaller project off New York's coast, the 12-turbine South Fork Wind, operated by Ørsted and Eversource.
Despite the Biden administration's support and favorable policies from east-coast state governors, the US offshore wind industry has faced challenges. According to The Guardian, Equinor and BP recently withdrew from their agreement to supply power from their Empire Wind 2 farm to New York, citing economic issues like inflation and supply chain problems. Similarly, Ørsted canceled two major offshore wind projects in New Jersey due to high costs, supply chain issues, and unsecured tax credits.
The sector has also encountered opposition from various groups, including former President Donald Trump, fishers, and some environmentalists, citing concerns over marine life impacts and visual disruption of coastlines. However, scientific evidence suggests minimal adverse effects on marine creatures like whales.
Opponents, often funded by fossil fuel interests, argue that offshore wind threatens the dominance of oil, coal, and gas, which contribute to global heating. Despite these challenges, the launch of Vineyard Wind signifies a crucial step forward in the US's commitment to renewable energy and its battle against climate change.
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