A first step on offshore wind
Stories from Vineyard Wind’s ceremonial groundbreaking
FEDERAL, STATE, and local officials gathered on Cape Cod Thursday for a ceremonial groundbreaking for Vineyard Wind, the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the United States.
It was a day for back-slapping, congratulations, and the telling of stories, but it was also the dawn of what many hope will be an energy revolution in Massachusetts and the United States. It’s a revolution that started late – it took three years for Vineyard Wind to win its federal clearance to proceed with construction – and one that needs to move into high gear quickly.
“I don’t think it should have taken this long. I really don’t,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “But if we truly want to get where we need to go as fast as we need to go on this stuff, we have got to figure out a way to move a little faster.”
Katie Theoharides, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said the state needs to move a lot faster. Vineyard Wind at full buildout is an 800-megawatt project that is currently scheduled to start producing some power in 2023. She said Massachusetts will have to bring 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power online every year starting in 2030 to reach the state’s net zero emissions goal by 2050.
The project will be a boon for Barnstable. The host community agreement calls for Vineyard wind to make payments of at least $1.5 million each year in property taxes and host community payments, plus an additional $60,000 annually for each year the project is in operation beyond 25 years. Connecting the power line to the substation will require opening up streets to lay the cables, and the town will piggyback on that work laying new sewer lines at the same time.
“We’ll save the town millions of dollars,” Pedersen said.
The national angle: US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the Biden administration is planning a rapid buildout of offshore wind, with the goal of deploying 30 gigawatts (30,000 megawatts) by 2030. That’s a very ambitious target, and House Speaker Ron Mariano is on board. “We know that the waters off Massachusetts, with our high winds and shallow waters, have the potential to deliver at least one-third of all the president’s goal,” he said. That would be 10,000 megawatts. Massachusetts has contracted for 1,600 megawatts so far, and is currently running a procurement for another 1,600 megawatts, with another procurement for 2,400 megawatts authorized but not even started yet. In total, that’s 5,000 megawatts, only halfway to the goal Biden has set.
Better get going: Mariano has a plan to speed things up. “We’re ready, governor, to authorize changes in the procurement legislation,” he said. The speaker said Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin, who was at the groundbreaking, is drafting the new legislation. “We better get going Jeff,” Mariano said.The speaker said he has made personal sacrifices for offshore wind. He recalled a 2016 legislative fact-finding trip to Denmark. He arrived at his hotel in Copenhagen lugging a big suitcase and discovered he had 15 minutes to get ready for an event. He discovered the hotel had no elevator and his room was on the fourth floor. “I was running up the stairs when I heard a pop [in my knee],” he said. Mariano finished the trip (and later required a knee replacement), which Pedersen said showed the speaker’s dedication to offshore wind.
Unofficial motto: On the day after Vineyard Wind won its power contract in May 2018, Pedersen said he received a text from the company’s lobbyist, Christian Scorzoni of Travaglini Scorzoni Kiley. The text featured a picture of Scorzoni and Baker giving the thumbs up along with a message: “Gov. says congratulations and don’t screw it up.” Pedersen confided another word was actually used instead of screwed. “Those words became the unofficial motto of the project,” Pederson said.