Congratulations on making headway on the US’ first offshore wind farm - what is your vision for Vineyard Wind?
The vision is to be the “forever first project” in terms of commercial scale offshore wind in the United States. This has been in our DNA from the get-go and now that we are deep in the construction phase, we are thrilled to see it come to life. Vineyard Wind will deliver green energy to over 400,000 households. I feel proud of my team - 100 people and growing, that together made it all happen.
What is the impact that you expect the Inflation Reduction Act to have on your operations?
The IRA is beyond doubt a move in the right direction and I am thrilled as to what this means for green energy development across the board. Vineyard Wind is too advanced to benefit from most of the tools it provides, however there is one part of it which allows us to get tax equity investors. Then there are a host of other benefits our shareholders and other developers can use for future projects.
From planting the project seed to construction, you moved at record speed – what was the journey like, and main hurdles encountered?
Each week brings a whole new adventure! After we won the project, we had a very aggressive permitting schedule. In terms of hurdles, the delay in 2019 that required additional studies to be conducted on all wind farm projects, was the main one. There were delays and we had to renegotiate contracts with our suppliers, including the turbine provider. We also had redesign big chunks of our project.
Then there is the social aspect. We engaged in a massive outreach program, talking to people on the Cape, as well as fisherman and environmental protection experts. We feel a responsibility to deliver benefits to the communities where we’re based. One of our parallel efforts has been in creating local jobs, and we are pleased to have signed the first Project Labor Agreement with the local authorities and building trade members. Finally, at the end of 2021 we finalized the intricate process of financing the project, with multiple banks involved.
How did the fishermen react to the news of an offshore wind farm appearing in their midst and will there be harmony with the local ecosystem?
Opinions will always vary, thus is human nature, but many are actually seeing the benefits of a local wind farm. The real conversation is about how we can provide enough data so that we can analyze the impact of installation and operation together. Once we have this information we can adapt and improve if needed, for a peaceful coexistence. We get that it is a big change for everyone, but we’ve made a number of concessions that we believe will ease the transition.
For instance, we will have one nautical mile between our turbines, unlike any other wind farm in the world, abiding by fishermen’s spacing requests.
How did you manage to combine existing infrastructure and local content with the novel needs a first offshore wind project brings about?
We are using GE’s Haliade-X 13 MW turbine, which is the largest wind turbine in the world, three times the size of the Statue of Liberty, and we will be installing 62 of them. There are simply no vessels in the US market equipped to handle a turbine of this size (as of yet). But even with that hurdle, we were able to bring in an American company to work out of the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford. Ports are essential to our efforts, and New Bedford is the one where we are staging and constructing the turbines. We will also utilize Vineyard Haven where we are building from scratch a facility and hangar building that will serve as the base for operations and maintenance of the project.
There is also the onshore substation that is a crucial component, and taken care of by an American company, as are the cables we are using to connect to land. In a nutshell, while our two large equipment suppliers are European, most others from vessels operators to general contractors are North American based, and we expect them to grow in number and expand operations as our industry flourishes.
What are your near and long term plans for Vineyard Wind?
There are concrete, step by step stages we are working on now - first come the cables and port construction, followed by the foundations next spring and first turbines next summer. Once grids are verified, electricity from the first turbines will start flowing into the grid in late 2023, and all 62 turbines will be up and running by 2024. We are thrilled to be a part of the local community, and an important part for us are the people we get to work with. While this is just one project, we are launching an entirely new industry and I can’t wait to see the number of jobs that are created in the coming years.
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