Massachusetts hoping to be nation’s offshore wind power hub

Block Island wind farm

BOSTON (AP) — The announcement that Massachusetts will work with Rhode Island to bring up to 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind energy to the region marks a milestone in the state’s efforts to develop renewable energy.

It’s been a long journey marked by fits and starts — most notably the abandoned effort to create the nation’s first wind farm off Cape Cod.

That project — the proposed 130-turbine Cape Wind — was 16 years in the planning stages before it finally succumbed to fierce opposition and lawsuits from local residents.

Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is hoping to put the contentious history of the Cape Wind project to rest by casting the state as a national leader in the race to develop offshore wind.

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Baker last week said the combined projects announced by Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which could power 600,000 homes, represent what he called the “largest single offshore wind procurement in the world.”

He also sounded optimistic about the cost of the energy generated by the giant turbines.

“People are going to be really surprised, I think, because the argument has always been, ‘Well, renewable and clean energy sources are great but they’re more expensive.’ I think people are going to be really surprised by what they see here,” Baker said during his monthly “Ask the Governor” program on WGBH-FM.

“We’re going to be able to significantly reduce our carbon footprint and at the same time give homeowners and businesses in Massachusetts terrific pricing,” he added.

The 1,200 megawatts is comprised of two separate projects, both to be located in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard.

The Massachusetts project — Vineyard Wind — is expected to generate 800 megawatts of energy. That’s about 5.5 to 6 percent of the state’s total annual electric load.

Vineyard Wind has said it hopes to begin delivering renewable energy to Massachusetts residents and businesses in 2021, although the final acceptance of the bid and award of the contract is conditional on successful contract negotiations.

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Developers said the project will consist of an array of wind turbines, spaced at least eight-tenths of a mile apart, that are each capable of generating over 8 megawatts of power.

The Rhode Island project — called Revolution Wind by developer Deepwater Wind — is expected to create more than 800 jobs and result in $250 million in investments in Rhode Island, the developer said this week. The project should include up to 50 turbines generating about 400 megawatts.

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski said this week that he couldn’t predict what the exact price of the energy will be, but said it will be competitive with other sources.

Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo called the project “about as big as it gets.”

As significant as the 800-megawatt project is in Massachusetts, it’s just a start. A 2016 law signed by Baker calls for a total of 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power, meaning the state can award an additional 800 megawatts.

“As soon as we sort of get going on this one, we’ll go out and pursue another one because we still have legislative authorization to do more,” Baker said.

The push for offshore wind by elected officials in Massachusetts pre-dates Baker.

In 2014, former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick traveled to Copenhagen to talk up the state’s wind power potential to offshore wind industry leaders and government officials there.

“Offshore wind has enormous potential off Massachusetts’ coast and we are working to ensure the commonwealth is the national hub for this emerging industry,” Patrick said at the time.

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More recently, the Trump administration has also signaled that it is interested in helping states develop offshore wind projects.

Other coastal states eyeing offshore wind as a renewable source of energy include New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia and New York.