Hyannis, Mass. – Offshore wind industry experts say wind could be the answer to minimizing our carbon footprint, and here in the US we’re seeing one of the country’s first offshore wind projects come to life off the coast of Massachusetts, where the wind is used as an emission-free energy source.
Vineyard Wind is currently building the country’s largest commercial offshore wind project, and the goal is to use the electricity produced by wind turbines to power homes by 2023.
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“We’ve been onshore construction for about a year and have just started offshore,” said Andrew Doba, spokesman for Vineyard Wind. “One spin of the turbine will power a home in the US for 24 hours”
There will be 62 turbines about a mile apart that will generate electricity for about 400,000 homes. The turbines will be located approximately 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Undersea cables will bring this energy from the turbines to Covell’s Beach in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
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“This is where our offshore cables meet land and eventually travel more than six miles to the grid,” Doba said.
FOX Weather multimedia journalist Katie Byrne was given a tour of the grid, also known as the Vineyard Wind Onshore Substation in Hyannis, Massachusetts, about six miles away.
Doba said the wind speeds and shallow waters make Cape Cod an ideal place to generate wind energy.
“The area we are building in is called the Saudi Arabia of the Wind,” Doba said. “They have very high wind speeds that make it really attractive for projects like this.”
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Locals feared the Vineyard Wind project would harm North Atlantic right whales
But not everyone is on board with the project.
A group called ACK Residents Against Turbines fears a power plant in the water there could threaten one of the world’s most endangered great whale species – the North Atlantic right whale.
“These whales are thriving here right now,” said group president and founder Vallorie Oliver. “For whatever reason, they are here. They are here calving. They are looking for food. Here is their food source.”
Oliver was born and raised on Nantucket.
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“Anyone who probably lives up and down, well, Cape Cod, gets some kind of notification every day,” she said, “‘Whales have been sighted here. Whales were spotted there. Stay away from them.’”
Her group has filed a federal lawsuit in hopes of pausing the project.
“What we are saying in the lawsuit is that you are not looking carefully enough at the US government’s endangered species and environmental protection laws, and you need to look beyond this initial Vineyard Wind One project,” said Amy Disibio. “You really have to look at it as a whole because the Vineyard Wind One project will be the first in a series of projects happening right in the area.”
According to NOAA Fisheries, the New England coast is critical habitat for the North Atlantic right whale, and there are fewer than 400 of them.
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“What will building a power plant in the middle of the ocean do for marine life, especially the North Atlantic right whale?” asked Disibio. “But what will it do to the entire food chain?”
Vineyard Wind said it is taking precautions when it comes to North Atlantic right whales.
“So we’re working with Charles River Analytics,” Doba said. “They provide technology on board that helps us avoid endangered species. It’s one of many things we do. We are also working with the University of New Hampshire on acoustic monitoring. And there are conservation observers on all ships.”
A judge in Boston is expected to hear the case in January.