Northeast
Shaun Dakin

RI - US's First Big Offshore Wind Farm Is a Breakthrough for the Industry

The United States’ offshore wind industry is tiny, with just seven wind turbines operating off Rhode Island and Virginia. The few attempts to build large-scale wind farms like in Europe have run into long delays — but that may be about to change.

The United States’ offshore wind industry is tiny, with just seven wind turbines operating off Rhode Island and Virginia. The few attempts to build large-scale wind farms like in Europe have run into long delays — but that may be about to change.

On May 11, 2021, the U.S. government issued the final federal approval for the Vineyard Wind project, a utility-scale wind farm that has been over a decade in the planning. The wind farm’s developers plan to install 62 giant turbines in the Atlantic Ocean about 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, with enough capacity to power 400,000 homes with clean energy.

The project is the first approved since the U.S. administration announced a goal in March to develop 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity this decade and promised to accelerate the federal review process. To put that goal in perspective, the U.S. has just 42 megawatts today. Vineyard Wind expects to add 800 megawatts in 2023.

So, are we finally seeing the launch of a thriving offshore wind industry in North America?

Several wind farm developers already hold leases in prime locations off the Eastern Seaboard, suggesting plenty of interest.

As engineering professors leading the Energy Transition Initiative and Wind Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, we have been closely watching the industry’s challenges and progress. The process could move quickly once permitting and approvals are on track, but there are still obstacles.

Why Offshore Wind Plans Stalled

Vineyard Wind had planned to begin construction in 2019, but a ruling by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management under the previous U.S. administration stalled it. The ruling cast a shadow over other wind farm plans and hopes for an U.S. offshore wind industry.


Read more.