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Power up: Vineyard Wind sends electricity to the grid

A GE Haliade-X Turbine Stands in the Vineyard Wind 1 Project Area South of Martha’s Vineyard.
Worldview Films
A GE Haliade-X Turbine Stands in the Vineyard Wind 1 Project Area South of Martha’s Vineyard.

New England’s first large offshore wind farm has delivered electricity to the grid.

In a test Tuesday, shortly before midnight, Vineyard Wind sent about five megawatts of power ashore in Barnstable from a single turbine, according to project officials.

More testing needs to be done before the turbine can be fully operational, according to the project’s two parent companies, Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. They said they expect the first five turbines, which were completed in early December, to be running in the early part of this year.

When fully built, Vineyard Wind 1, located about 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard, will have 62 turbines of 13 megawatts each and generate enough power for more than 400,000 homes.

Maggie Downey, administrator of renewable energy provider Cape Light Compact, said the powering-up of Vineyard Wind represents a turning point in meeting the state’s climate goals.

“I think it's a huge moment for everybody that lives in Massachusetts,” she said. “We need the electrons on our grid. We are all seeing the impacts of climate change, and this is a giant step forward to helping us and the Commonwealth achieve their state goals.”

Vineyard Wind hoped to deliver power by the end of 2023, but missed that mark.

Still, Edgartown Town Administrator James Hagerty said this is a big moment.

“Exciting news,” he said. “It's a long time coming for the island, and now the project is starting to come full circle. I think the community's been very supportive of their endeavors.”

Undersea transmission lines are bringing electricity ashore at Covell’s Beach in Barnstable.

Although a different wind farm, Long Island-based South Fork Wind, electrified its first turbine a month ago, Vineyard Wind has broken new ground for U.S. offshore wind energy at many points over the last five-and-half years.

In May of 2018, it became the surprise solo winner of a competitive bidding process for Massachusetts’ first offshore wind contract, beating out Bay State Wind and Deepwater Wind. (The same day, Deepwater was awarded a Rhode Island contract based on its Massachusetts bid.)

Some observers, including New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, thought the Massachusetts award would likely be split between two bidders to reduce the risk that a single project could face delays and hold up development of the industry.

Vineyard Wind later became the first large offshore wind farm to receive federal approval and the first to land offshore wind cables on Cape Cod.

It and a handful of others have paved the way for wind farms in federal waters, following a small project in state waters in Rhode Island. Opened in 2016, the Block Island Wind Farm was the nation’s first commercial offshore wind farm. It has five turbines at six megawatts each — less than half the capacity of today’s turbines.

Two years ago, Vineyard Wind held a ceremonial groundbreaking at Covell’s Beach with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in attendance.

In remarks at the groundbreaking, then-Gov. Charlie Baker said he wanted to see many more wind developments off the Massachusetts coast.

“This is a great day, and I'm super psyched that we're first, OK?” he said. “But I want us to be first, fifth, twenty-fifth, forty-second, and fiftieth over the course of the next 30 years.”

Since 2018, Massachusetts has held two additional rounds of bidding for offshore wind contracts and awarded three: one to SouthCoast Wind in 2019, and one each to South Coast Wind and Commonwealth Wind in 2021.

All of those projects are now on hold. The owners paid millions of dollars in penalties to terminate their contracts, saying inflation and other cost increases made it impossible for them to build under the original terms.

Offshore wind companies have another opportunity to bid in the state’s fourth selection process, which is now underway. Bids are due Jan. 31, and this time, developers can include price adjustments for inflation.

The state’s major electric companies — Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil — will buy and distribute power from the offshore wind farms.

At 806 megawatts, Vineyard Wind 1 has the capacity to reduce carbon emissions by more than 1.6 million metric tons annually, according to project officials.

In December, Vineyard Wind’s parent companies said the project had provided 937 union jobs, nearly double the number it promised in a labor agreement.

Vineyard Wind 1 is a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, or CIP, a renewable energy investment company. In April of last year, the Denmark-based CIP launched an affiliate company, Vineyard Offshore, specifically to pursue wind farm development in North America.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.