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Massachusetts to Get New Offshore Wind Farm?

August 7, 2017

Last week, Deepwater Wind, an offshore wind and transmission developer based in Providence, Rhode Island, announced plans to bring a new offshore wind farm to Massachusetts. Deepwater developed the country’s first offshore wind project near Block Island, Rhode Island. That project began operations in December 2016 after being initiated nine years ago. (The developer has also built or gained approval for wind farms in New York and Maryland.) Now, Deepwater hopes to build a wind farm for Massachusetts powered by Tesla batteries. The project, if successful, might finally break the so-called “curse of Cape Wind,” the failed 24-square-mile wind farm off Cape Cod proposed 16 years ago. Cape Wind drew opposition from those who did not want windmills obstructing their beachfront views and environmentalists concerned that construction would disrupt migrating whales and that the wind turbines would harm birds. In addition, renewable energy skeptics have long cited Cape Wind to claim that wind energy will not work in the U.S.

But before the project (named Revolution Wind) can have a chance to be successful, it must be approved. Deepwater plans to submit an official bid for the farm next year. The farm site would have a capacity of 144 megawatts (much bigger than the 30-megawatt Block Island site). It would be located 30 miles from shore and 12 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Revolution Wind may draw the same kind of environmentalist opposition that Cape Wind did, but Deepwater worked with whale surveyors and wildlife officials to avoid loud, disruptive construction when it built the Block Island wind farm. It will likely approach Revolution Wind with the same caution. In addition, the above concerns from environmentalists may be overstated. A 2014 study published in the Environmental Research Letters suggested that construction noise is relatively low, and another 2014 study conducted by the Scottish government found that 99 percent of birds avoid wind turbines. And furthermore, the location of the farm is much farther away from land than Cape Wind was. In other words, Revolution Wind is designed to avoid complaints from those who own homes with beachfront views.

If Revolution Wind is approved, construction would begin in 2022 and would be able to power approximately 80,000 homes. According to Deepwater, it would be the biggest “combined offshore wind and energy storage project in the world.” Energy storage plays a crucial role in energy sources like solar and wind. In the case of Revolution Wind, storage would allow utilities to gather wind energy as it is generated and utilize it as it is needed. Revolution Wind would also create several hundreds of jobs in the New Bedford region. Though New Bedford was once the world’s whaling center, mariners in the area have struggled lately. Overfishing and climate change have reduced the cod population in New England, and fishing jobs have disappeared. Deepwater wants those who have experience on the water to work on Revolution Wind.