4 questions about the current status of offshore wind in Mass., answered

Wind turbine blades stacked on the dock at the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Wind turbine blades stacked on the dock at the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

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You’ve probably noticed a lot of headlines recently about offshore wind. From canceled contracts to “steel in the water,” it can be hard to keep track of which way the winds are blowing.

The good news is our senior climate and environment reporter Miriam Wasser is here to help. I’ve been bugging Miriam to write this story for me for a while. And she finally did — for me, for you, for all of us who are confused about the status of the industry.

Let’s go over the basics:

How many wind farms do we currently have in the U.S.?

Two — and they’re relatively small. There’s a five-turbine farm near Block Island and two turbines off the Virginia coast. Together, they can generate up to 42 megawatts of power (on a good, windy day).

That’s enough for just 20,000 homes — a far, far cry from the Biden administration’s goal of 30 gigawatts from offshore by 2030. (One gigawatt is equal to 1,000 megawatts.)

Which projects are definitely in the works?

There are two more projects opening soon in the Northeast, and they’re significantly bigger.

The 62-turbine, 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind 1 project — currently under construction about 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard — is expected to start generating electricity this December. When it’s fully up and running next year, the project will produce enough electricity to power 400,000 homes in Massachusetts. It will also be the first major offshore wind farm in the U.S. (Miriam and WBUR photographer Robin Lubbock recently visited New Bedford to take photos of the massive turbine towers.)

Several miles west, there’s also a smaller New York project underway called South Fork Wind that’s slated to begin operations by the end of this year.

What about the other Massachusetts wind projects?

Here’s where those winds get a little chillier.

Massachusetts had signed contracts for two additional 1,200-megawatt projects. However, offshore wind projects are very sensitive to interest rates and material prices. When both began rising last year, the developers clamored to renegotiate or sever their contacts. Eventually, the state agreed. (Both companies had to pay a hefty termination fee.)

But though the contracts are canceled, the projects are not dead. Both developers say they’re committed to re-bidding them (albeit at a higher price) during the state’s next offshore wind auction.

That means those two projects could be delayed a few years and cost the state a good deal more. The worry is that they could cost so much more money that state officials may decide to hold off longer.

What is Massachusetts doing about it?

Massachusetts isn’t the only one facing this problem. This week, Gov. Maura Healey announced the state will band together with Rhode Island and Connecticut to solicit offshore wind projects as a team. The rough idea is that letting developers bid on big projects whose power could be divided among the three states will lead to cheaper costs and maybe even quicker project timelines.

The next round of bids in Massachusetts are due this winter.

For more on what industry insiders expect, the merits of the lawsuits trying to block offshore wind, misinformation about whales and more, I highly encourage you to read Miriam’s excellent explainer here. (Fair warning: you may want to set aside some time — maybe a Green Line Extension ride — to read the full, 3,000-word piece.)

Meanwhile, back here on land…

Expect this fall’s bumpy COVID vaccine rollout to get smoother by mid-October. That was the word from Dr. Mandy Cohen, the new CDC director, during a visit to Boston yesterday. Cohen told WBUR’s Priyanka Dayal McCluskey that the supply of updated shots should improve — particularly for kids.

  • Mark her words: “We already feel like there’s really good availability for adults,” Cohen said. “I think the pediatric availability is going to improve over the next one to two weeks.”

Fore! Top golf organizers are teeing up for “a major championship announcement” this morning at The Country Club in Brookline — which just hosted the U.S. Open last year. Any guesses what they’re planning to announce? (The 2031 U.S Open does still need a home…)

P.S.— It’s the last day of WBUR’s fall fundraiser and we still need to raise a third of our goal. Please, make a gift and help support the journalism (and newsletters!) you rely on.


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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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