The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Vineyard Wind Farm Could Mean Breakthrough for Industry

Erin Baker and Matthew Lackner

Erin Baker & Matthew Lackner

In their recent article in The Conversation, Professors Erin Baker and Matthew Lackner of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department wrote that the U.S. government’s approval of the country’s first big offshore wind farm, to be located near Martha’s Vineyard, is a breakthrough for the industry. Baker and Lackner are both faculty with the Wind Energy Center at UMass Amherst.

As Baker and Lackner explained in their article, “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 Europe’s have run into long delays, but that may be about to change.”

Baker and Lackner went on to say that “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.”

Baker and Lackner said that “The project is the first approved since the Biden 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.”

Baker and Lackner concluded that “Speeding up federal approvals for offshore wind farms is an important first step, but those aren’t the only hurdles for offshore wind farm developers.” The bulk of their article in The Conversation placed this statement in context and laid out the complex set of hurdles that the offshore wind energy faces as it tries to catch up with the power output of offshore wind farms in such countries as the United Kingdom, China, Germany, and other countries in Europe and Asia.

Baker and Lackner also outlined the dire environmental consequences of delaying the establishment of offshore wind farms.

“Every year of delay for a large-scale wind farm costs the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars in climate benefits,” as Baker and Lackner wrote. “The Biden administration calculates that its new wind power goal would avoid 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, roughly equivalent to taking 17 million cars off the road for a year.” (June 2021)