New England stories from the region's top public media newsrooms
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Up and running: Vineyard Wind operating five turbines; Cape Cod supporters celebrate

The first completed turbine at the Vineyard Wind offshore site. With four others, it is now operational, sending electricity to the region's power grid.
Vineyard Wind
The first completed turbine at the Vineyard Wind offshore site. With four others, it is now operational, sending electricity to the region's power grid.

Vineyard Wind has begun sending continuous electricity to the regional grid from the first five of 62 planned turbines.

The power makes landfall via underground cables at Covell's Beach in Barnstable.

The news Thursday represents the first continuous offshore wind operation by a wind farm with a Massachusetts contract.

Known as Vineyard Wind 1, the wind farm is generating 68 megawatts of power to date, enough to power 30,000 homes and businesses. Eventually it will have the capacity to power more than 400,000.

Gov. Maura Healey and one of Vineyard Wind’s two parent companies, Avangrid, announced the milestone in separate press releases yesterday. Each quoted some 20 supporting organizations and public officials, including the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Mass Audubon, and Massachusetts AFL-CIO.

Significant local support has also come from the Sierra Club’s Cape Cod & Islands Group, which held a celebration last night — planned prior to the big announcement — at Añejo Mexican Bistro in Hyannis.

Offshore wind supporters get ready for a member of the waitstaff to snap a group photo at Thursday's celebration event hosted by the Sierra Club in Hyannis. Their signs say "Clean Energy Now."
Jennette Barnes
/
CAI
Offshore wind supporters get ready for a member of the waitstaff to snap a group photo at Thursday's celebration event hosted by the Sierra Club in Hyannis. Their signs say "Clean Energy Now."

About 35 wind advocates from local environmental groups, organized labor, Cape Cod Community College and others dug into guacamole and hot appetizers as they marked the advent of renewable energy from Massachusetts offshore wind.

“I am thrilled,” local Sierra Club Secretary Diane LeDuc said of the day’s announcement. “That's fabulous news. I’m hoping that the rest gets online quickly, too.”

But last night’s event had another purpose beyond toasting Vineyard Wind’s latest milestone.

Chris Powicki, Sierra Club chair for the Cape and Islands, said the group convened supporters in part to try to “reframe the current narrative” in Barnstable.

“There's been a lot of publicity about local opposition, and we feel it's really, really important to take a step back and look at the community benefits associated with this project,” he said. “The town committed to this and is bringing tens of millions of dollars of benefits back to residents, in terms of taxpayer savings and other things.”

Wind opponents held a half-day conference in Hyannis last month.

Speaking at the Sierra Club gathering last night, Susan Starkey, co-chair of the Faith Communities Environmental Network, encouraged wind supporters to speak during public comment periods at Barnstable Town Council meetings, even when wind isn’t on the agenda.

Topping the list of concerns are the proposed locations for future landing of offshore wind transmission cables at other Cape Cod beaches.

“We still need people to come and give them good information about why they support the Covell’s Beach landing and/or the Dowses Beach landing, because they’re getting a lot of opposition with what we think of as misinformation,” she said. “So we need to bring in concrete, good information with cited sources, not over-the-top emotion.”

David Weeden, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council and Mashpee Select Board, told the group he looks forward to continued wind development — if it’s done responsibly.

“As long as we build forward in a responsible way, and we're doing our due diligence, then we have to be on one side of the fence with where we get our energy from,” he said. “And from what I understand — I'm not a scientist, but the clean energy that's offered from offshore wind is much better than the fossil fuels.”

Weeden said local communities are looking for financial support to protect water quality on Cape Cod. Wind developers often pledge financial benefits to host communities.

Vineyard Wind co-owner Avangrid picked up the tab for the food and drinks for the Sierra Club celebration.

Powicki, the Cape and Islands chair, said working with wind developers is part of the Sierra Club’s advocacy role.

“An organization like the Sierra Club has to engage with big business in some ways,” he said. “But just because we might be inclined to support a project in one location, doesn't mean that we support everything they're doing.”

More wind farms are on the way.

A 12-turbine New York project, South Fork Wind, is nearing completion. And March 27 is the deadline for developers to bid on the next set of Massachusetts contracts.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.