MA - Offshore wind farms off Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard: A guide of what to know
With more than 95,000 miles of coastline in the United States, why is Massachusetts the proverbial gold rush for offshore wind? What makes it so special that the waters off its coast are called the "Saudi Arabia" of wind power?
How many wind farms areas are there? When will the first wind-powered electricity start to flow into the grid? How will the electricity get from offshore into your home? How will it affect your electricity bill? And how does it all help the environment?
Keep reading to find the answers to these, and more, questions related to offshore wind.
What makes Massachusetts the 'Saudi Arabia' of wind?
Anthony Kirincich, a scientist who studies physical oceanography at the Woods Hole Oceanaographic Institution, said it's a combination of factors, but the main one has to do with the atmospheric conditions that drive the weather as well as the oceans.
The really quick answer, he said, is the larger scale atmospheric flow patterns — the polar jet stream and the subtropical jet stream — "kind of draw together" and accelerate as everything moves from west to east.
"We in Massachusetts happen to be right at that place where convergences take place," he said.
Offshore wind will need major investments in transmission, supply chain, reports say, New Jersey Monitor / January 28, 2023
New England states seek US DOE funding to support meshed HVDC offshore wind grid, S&P Global / January 28, 2023
The consistently strong wind patterns off the Massachusetts coast, particularly south of Martha's Vineyard, are borne out in the 2016 Offshore Wind Energy Resource Assessment for the United States from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
But other factors than atmospheric patterns converge here to make it ideal for offshore wind power production.
"Not only are the winds fairly strong, the continental shelf — the bottom of the ocean — is shallower," Kirincich said.
State Rep. Jeffrey Roy, D-Franklin, chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy who has long supported offshore wind power development, summarized, "essentially, Massachusetts has a unique combination of; one, consistent, high-speed winds within distance from shore; two, shallow waters; and, three, substantial shoreline."
Wind resource maps show that wind speeds off the Massachusetts coast are slightly above 9 meters per second. A map from the Marine Cadastre National Viewer, compiled with data from National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Wind Integration National Dataset (WIND) Toolkit, shows how windspeed decreases as you move south along the East Coast, down to about 7 meters per second off Florida.
Offshore wind farms: Who is building them? who owns the waters? And who assigns the leases?
The offshore lease areas are in federal waters on the outer continental shelf south of Martha's Vineyard, southeast of Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay and west of Montauk Point on Long Island, New York. Together they amount to about 800,000 acres.
With one offshore wind project well underway and others in progress, Massachusetts is leading the way in the nation's green energy expansion and meeting the goals set for reducing carbon emissions.