Against the backdrop of Nantucket Sound and a steady wind that would surely keep a field of turbines spinning, political leaders and representatives of Vineyard Wind gathered at Covell’s Beach in Centerville to celebrate the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project.
Federal and state leaders broke ground at the site in Barnstable, which is where Vineyard 1’s export cables will make landfall. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland was joined inside a large tent by Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, House Speaker Ron Mariano, state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. They were joined by Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen, CIP senior partner and co-founder Christian Skakkebaek, and Avangrid CEO Dennis Arriola, as well as dozens of state legislators and representatives of the state’s congressional delegation.
“If you had asked me three years ago what I’d be doing on Cape Cod in November 2021, I probably would have said I am down here to celebrate the inauguration of Vineyard Wind 1 after we would have commissioned and installed the last three offshore [wind farms],” Pedersen said. “It didn’t exactly play out the way I thought it would in 2018, when we were trying to put the pieces together.”
He mentioned a message he received from Baker after Vineyard Wind 1 was awarded the contract in 2018. “It said, ‘Don’t screw it up,” he recalled as Baker, seated nearby, laughed. “Those weren’t the exact words.”
Pedersen praised the Vineyard Wind employees. “There will be only one team that builds the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, and that’s this team,” he said to a loud ovation.
Baker said he didn’t think it would take this long to get the project approved. “Vineyard Wind, I just have to say to you folks, how much we appreciate your perseverance, your creativity, and your appreciation of what it meant to be first,” he said. “I don’t think it should have taken this long. I really don’t … If we truly want to get where we want to go as fast as we need to go on this stuff, we have go to figure out a way to move a long faster.”
Baker added he’s “super-psyched” about Massachusetts leading the way, but pointed out there are other projects in the wings. “There is a lot to be done here, this a great day, and I’m super-psyched that we’re first, but I want us to be first, fifth, 25th, 42nd, and 50th over the course of the next 10 years.”
In her remarks, Theoharides mentioned the state’s goal of being net-zero by 2050, and the need for more wind energy to get there. “It’s absolutely a momentous day, but we need a lot more of these to get our net zero goal,” she said.
Haaland praised Vineyard Wind and Massachusetts for their efforts. “It’s thrilling to think that right here where we are standing is where the very first cable will connect the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind facility to the mainland and eventually the U.S. power grid,” she said.
She mentioned the administration’s goal of 30 gigawatts by 2030. “We know they’re ambitious, but they’re needed,” Haaland said.
In one of President Joe Biden’s first acts as president, his administration revived the permitting process for Vineyard Wind 1. The offshore wind farm, located 15 miles south of the Island, will feature 62 GE Haliade-X turbines, and is anticipated to have an overall cost of just over $2 billion. The 62 turbines are meant to generate 800 megawatts of electricity that will be sent through two export cables buried under the Atlantic seabed. The cables will pass through the Muskeget Channel, off Chappaquiddick.
The project has enjoyed tremendous support, with the exception of the fishing industry, which has expressed concerns about navigating the turbines. In October, the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance filed an intent to sue over the federal approvals.
Ironically, Thursday’s press event was in a location where Cape Wind would have been visible. That 130-turbine wind farm project failed, in part, because of political pressure from the likes of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, whose family still owns valuable waterside property in Hyannisport.
Though it carries the Vineyard name, the project’s biggest benefits to the Island won’t be in the electricity it generates, but the jobs it creates. An operations and maintenance facility was recently approved for Vineyard Haven by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and the Martha’s Vineyard Airport will serve as a hub for the project’s helicopters.