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Crews begin construction on wind farm off Martha's Vineyard

The turbines of the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The turbines of the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Foundations for the 62 turbines of the Vineyard Wind clean energy project are now being installed about 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard, project officials said Wednesday as they marked another milestone for the nation's first commercial-scale offshore wind farm.

Vineyard Wind, a joint venture between Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, said the crane ship Orion and a fleet of other vessels will work through the summer to install monopiles and transition pieces for the 800-megawatt project that has been years in the making. Cleaner electricity generated by the development is expected to flow onto the grid by the end of 2023.

"We can finally say it — as of today, there is 'steel in the water,'" Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller said. "Over the next few months, we'll be working hand in glove with the Building Trades and our contractors to ensure the work is done safely and efficiently."

Vineyard Wind was the first offshore wind project selected by Massachusetts utility companies with input from the Baker administration to fulfill part of a 2016 clean energy law, and could be the only Massachusetts offshore wind project to become a reality until at least 2028 as subsequent projects have run into economic headwinds that developers say threaten their ability to finance their projects.

Vineyard Wind is projected to generate cleaner electricity for more than 400,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts, produce at least 3,600 jobs, reduce costs for Massachusetts ratepayers by an estimated $1.4 billion over 20 years, and eliminate 1.68 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. It is expected to begin delivering electricity onto the grid by the end of this year.

"With the start of the foundation installation today on the nation's first commercial scale offshore wind farm, the windmills that will power hundreds of thousands of homes are beginning to emerge from the water, a process that is creating jobs and bring us one step closer to delivering the Commonwealth's clean energy future," House Speaker Ronald Mariano said. "The House will continue to work towards making Massachusetts a national leader in the offshore wind industry, as we work to play our role in addressing the climate crisis."

Gov. Maura Healey said her administration is "thrilled to see this historic project move one step closer to completion and committed to supporting the offshore wind industry across the state."

In addition to its existing crew, Vineyard Wind said the crane ship Orion is relying on local union piledrivers who received special training to install the monopiles and transition pieces.

"The men and women of Massachusetts's Building Trades Unions are among the nation's best-trained, highly skilled, and most productive workforce. They get the job done right while earning family-sustaining wages and benefits that provide them a secure place in America's middle class," Frank Callahan, president of Massachusetts Building Trades Unions, said. "The Vineyard Wind project offers a generational opportunity for existing tradespeople to bring their skills to this new industry while opening career paths to the trades for residents of New Bedford and the SouthCoast."

Vineyard Wind has also deployed the offshore supply ships Atlantic Oceanic and Northstar Navigator to deploy primary and secondary bubble curtains, a setup of large, perforated hoses and specialized air compressors designed to absorb and dampen sound during foundation installation. Three fishing boats — the Orbay, the Socatean, and Kathryn Marie — are also at the project site to serve as safety and communication sentries.

And another fishing vessel, the Beth Anne, will deploy a passive acoustic monitoring system of up to four fixed buoys for real-time underwater acoustic monitoring of marine mammals during pile-driving, Vineyard Wind said.



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