In a statement, the US Department of the Interior described the development, which will be located in waters off the coast of Massachusetts, as “the first large-scale offshore wind project in the United States.”
The Vineyard Wind project, he said, is expected to generate 3,600 jobs and “provide enough electricity for 400,000 homes and businesses.”
The DOI added that a decision record granted Vineyard Wind “final federal approval to install 84 or fewer turbines off Massachusetts as part of an 800 megawatt offshore wind facility.”
According to the Vineyard Wind team, the facility will use GE Renewable Energy’s massive Haliade-X turbines, meaning only 62 will actually be needed.
Vineyard Wind is a 50/50 joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables. The latter is a subsidiary of Avangrid, which is part of the Iberdrola group, a major public service based in Spain.
Iberdrola says the investment in the project will amount to 2.5 billion euros ($ 3.03 billion). If all goes according to plan, it could enter service in 2023.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Jonathan Cole, who is global managing director of offshore wind at Iberdrola, told CNBC that approval of the project was “extremely important.”
“This is the necessary permit to allow us now to go ahead and build the project,” he said.
“This is the first of its kind in the United States and it should be followed by many other projects, so this is really the one that is going to kick start the offshore wind industry in the United States for good.
“So this is a great moment for this project and for our companies, but it is also a great moment for the entire American offshore wind sector. “
Cole’s views have been echoed by a number of organizations, including the National Ocean Industries Association.
Its president, Erik Milito, called the green light for the Vineyard Wind project an “American energy milestone”.
“US offshore wind is a generational opportunity, and its prospects are more secure with the Vineyard Wind Record of Decision,” he added.
Elsewhere, Heather Zichal, who is CEO of the American Clean Power Association, hailed “a historic day for clean energy and for our country that has been brewing for over a decade.”
“Now is the time to move offshore wind forward, catch up with our global competitors and decarbonize our electricity grid, so the United States can deliver economic and environmental benefits to our citizens and fight climate change,” said she added.
Tuesday’s news represents the latest boost for America’s brand new offshore wind industry.
In March, the Energy, Home Affairs and Trade departments said they wanted offshore wind capacity to reach 30 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, a move the Biden administration hopes to generate. thousands of jobs and unlock billions of dollars in investment over the next few years.
If this goal is met, it would represent a significant expansion for the U.S. While America is home to a well-developed onshore wind industry, the country’s first offshore wind facility, the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm, has failed. started its commercial operations only at the end of 2016.
Preliminary figures from the US Energy Information Administration show that, for 2020, the share of wind power in utility-scale electricity generation is 8.4%.
In contrast, the shares of natural gas and coal were 40.3% and 19.3% respectively. Overall, fossil fuels held a share of 60.3% while nuclear and renewables had shares of 19.7% and 19.8%.
Looking at the global offshore wind situation, the United States still has some way to go before catching up with more mature markets, such as the one found in Europe.
Last year, the sector attracted more than 26 billion euros (about $ 31.5 billion) in investment there, a record amount, according to figures from industry body WindEurope. In 2020, 2.9 GW of offshore wind capacity was installed in Europe.