The commercial fishing industry pushed back as the Vineyard Wind I project, the first commercial-grade offshore wind farm in the U.S., moves forward.
The project is part of President Joe Biden’s goal of having 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, as well as Massachusetts’s goal of 5.6 gigawatts by 2030, said U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in Barnstable, a town on Cape Cod.
Haaland attended a groundbreaking for the project with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday. Two transmission cables with be laid to connect Vineyard Wind 1 to the mainland in the project’s first steps of construction, The Associated Press reported.
A legal challenge was filed in September to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s approval of Vineyard Wind 1 with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a coalition of commercial fishing groups.
The farm will generate 800 megawatts of electricity annually, enough to power more than 400,000 homes. It will be built by union labor and create hundreds of jobs, Haaland said.
“Vineyard Wind 1 represents a historic milestone for advancing our nation’s clean energy production,” Haaland said. “This project and others across the country will create robust and sustainable economies that lift up communities and support good-paying jobs, while also ensuring future generations have a livable planet.”
In July, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved the project to construct 62 wind turbines about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and 35 miles from mainland Massachusetts.
Another Vineyard Wind project – Vineyard Wind South – is also under development.
Offshore wind development is still in its infancy in the U.S., which is home to two small projects off Rhode Island and Virginia.
The alliance said approval for the wind farm “adds unacceptable risk to this sustainable industry without any effort to minimize unreasonable interference with traditional and well-managed seafood production and navigation.”
In addition, the group also said the design of the project puts turbines too close together for ships to navigate safely during rough sea conditions and doesn’t talk about the affect on fish populations.
“This is a precedent-setting decision by BOEM, and it is critical that they get it right so that future projects are following a trusted roadmap instead of a flawed and dangerous example,” said Anne Hawkins, executive director of RODA, Martha Vineyard’s Times reported. “Unfortunately, this lawsuit is the only recourse fishermen have to ensure the fishing communities’ concerns are addressed.”
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