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Huge offshore wind contracts granted in Northeast

Massachusetts and Rhode Island officials announced offshore wind companies on Wednesday to handle two massive projects off of Martha’s Vineyard.

Gov. Charlie Baker, R-Mass., and his administration said Vineyard Wind, a joint venture of Connecticut-based utility Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, was selected to build a wind farm with as many as 100 turbines about 15 miles south of the small island off the coast of Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe.

Rhode Island officials said they selected Providence-based Deepwater Wind to build a 400-megawatt wind farm northwest of the Vineyard Wind project.

“This is a spectacular day,” Deepwater Wind chief executive Jeffrey Grybowski told the Globe. “To be honest with you, I’m still taking it all in.”

The decisions mark an abrupt turn in fortunes for the wind power industry, which has struggled to build any offshore project of size in the United States.

The Cape Wind project in Massachusetts endured more than a decade of opposition before surrendering in late 2017; the first to come online in New England was the modest five-turbine wind farm project that Deepwater built near Block Island in 2016.

The Cape Wind project was tied up for years in the permitting process and lawsuits, as Cape Cod residents objected to the sight of dozens of turbines several miles offshore. While the two new projects may be visible on the horizon from the Vineyard, both are so much farther offshore that they are unlikely to generate the kind of controversy that doomed Cape Wind.

In Massachusetts, Baker administration officials said the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project is the largest single procurement of offshore wind power of any state.

Vineyard Wind has applied for state and federal permits, and expects to start construction next year, with the first turbines connecting to the grid as soon as 2021. Officials said it was too early to disclose its cost.

Fishermen have been wary of offshore wind farms.

“We can only hope that the cumulative impacts of hundreds of wind turbines and associated subsurface cables and subsequent noise will not have a detrimental impact on our resource as well as access to the fishery,” said Michael Pierdinock, Massachusetts chairman of the Recreational Fishing Alliance and a charter boat captain based in New Bedford. “I am counting on the fact that appropriate scientific studies will be conducted accordingly prior to siting to make sure we protect our resource.”

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