Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and Avangrid said the Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind installation sent electricity to the power grid for the first time late on Jan. 2. The companies on Jan. 3 said Vineyard Wind 1, as part of its initial commissioning, delivered about 5 MW of electricity to the New England grid at 11:52 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

Vineyard Wind is a joint venture between Avangrid, the U.S.-based subsidiary of  Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, and CIP, a Danish infrastructure investment group that specializes in renewable energy, particularly wind power.

Testing of turbines and transmission systems for the project, both onshore and offshore, will continue for the next several weeks. Officials said at least five of the project’s turbines are expected to be operating at full capacity in the next few months. Construction of the 806-MW installation, located 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and about 35 miles off the coast of mainland Massachusetts, is continuing, and when complete the project will feature 62 General Electric Haliade-X turbines, each rising about 800 feet out of the water and capable of generating 13 MW of power.

‘Historic Moment’

“This is a historic moment for the American offshore wind industry,” said Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey. “Soon, Vineyard Wind will be producing power equivalent to over 400,000 Massachusetts households. This is clean, affordable energy made possible by the many advocates, public servants, union workers, and business leaders who worked for decades to accomplish this achievement. As we look ahead, Massachusetts is on a path toward energy independence thanks to our nation-leading work to stand up the offshore wind industry.”

Offshore construction of Vineyard Wind began in late 2022. The first steel in the water occurred in June of last year, and the first offshore power substation in the U.S. was completed in July 2023.

“This truly is a milestone for offshore wind and the entire renewable industry in North America. For the first time we have power flowing to the American consumers from a commercial-scale wind project, which marks the dawn of a new era for American renewables and the green transition,” said Tim Evans, partner at CIP and Head of North America.“By delivering first power, we have broken new ground and shown a viable path forward with power that is renewable, locally produced, and affordable. Much of the credit for this milestone must go to our local partners, labor leaders and the project’s skilled union workforce, and local communities from New Bedford to Barnstable.”

“2023 was a historic year defined by steel in the water and people at work. Today, we begin a new chapter and welcome 2024 by delivering the first clean offshore wind power to the grid in Massachusetts,” said Avangrid CEO Pedro Azagra. “We’ve arrived at a watershed moment for climate action in the U.S., and a dawn for the American offshore wind industry. As we build on this tremendous progress and work to deliver the full capacity of this historic project, we continue to stand proudly with all the partners that made this achievement possible, including the Biden administration and the Healey-Driscoll administration.”

Power Delivery

Electricity from Vineyard Wind 1 is being delivered via two submarine cables installed along a route from the offshore substation to the landing point onshore at Covell’s Beach in Barnstable, Mass. The submarine cables are buried up to six feet below the seafloor using a jetplow.

Officials said the cable route was selected after extensive geological surveys of the area to avoid sensitive habitats. The onshore cables are buried beneath public roadways, and connect to an onshore substation in Hyannis, Mass., on Cape Cod. The onshore facility is adjacent to an existing Eversource substation.

“I congratulate Vineyard Wind on this important, hard-won milestone, demonstrating yet again that offshore wind in America is real, and that the Port of New Bedford is well-suited to support the industry,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, whose town is home to Vineyard Wind’s corporate offices. “This is a great way to kick off 2024.”

First power from Vineyard Wind comes about a month after South Fork Wind, a 132-MW offshore wind project near Long Island, New York, began producing electricity. Danish wind energy developer Ørsted and the utility Eversource on Dec. 6 said South Fork Wind, located about 35 miles east of Montauk Point, was producing power from the first of what will eventually be 12 operating turbines.

The first U.S. offshore wind farm, Block Island, began operating in 2017. That small, 30-MW project off the coast of Rhode Island uses five 6-MW GE Haliade model turbines.

U.S. Offshore Wind Industry

The U.S. offshore wind industry has developed much more slowly than elsewhere in the world, plagued by permitting and construction delays. Environmental concerns and supply chain disruptions (in part due to the pandemic) also brought negative impacts.

The U.S. East Coast has experienced most of the development, led by New York (promised development of 9 GW by 2035) and New Jersey (11 GW by 2040). Other states up and down the East Coast also have development plans, though some projects have been canceled and others delayed. Equinor, the Norwegian energy major, on Jan. 3 announced it would terminate its Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificate (OREC) agreement with New York for the 1,260-MW Empire Wind 2 project. The company in a news release cited “commercial conditions driven by inflation, interest rates and supply chain disruptions that prevented Empire Wind 2’s existing OREC agreement from being viable.”

The largest U.S. project proposed to date, a 2.6-GW installation near Virginia Beach, Virginia, was approved by the Biden administration in October of last year. Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project will feature 176 turbines and is expected to begin generating power by 2026.

Development also has been discussed for the Gulf of Mexico, and along the U.S. West Coast.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).