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Biden administration approves large offshore wind project in New England

FILE - A Block Island Wind Farm turbine operates, Dec. 7, 2023, off the coast of Block Island, R.I., during a tour of the South Fork Wind farm organized by Orsted.
Julia Nikhinson
A Block Island Wind Farm turbine operates, Dec. 7, 2023, off the coast of Block Island. Federal regulators approved a new wind farm project to be built off the coast of Martha's Vineyard on Tuesday.

The Biden administration approved a new wind project off the Massachusetts coast Tuesday that is large enough to provide more electricity than the state's former coal-fired generating station.

Avangrid’s New England Wind is the United States' eighth large offshore wind project to be greenlit and is tied for the largest ever approved, but will probably be smaller.

Avangrid says it will be smaller than the 129 turbines that won approval, and each wind turbine will be smaller as well, so the actual output will be closer to 1,900 megawatts than the maximum 2,600. Those 1,900 megawatts could power up to 1 million homes and businesses in southern New England.

Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind is a 2,600-megawatt project, to be built east of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The last operating coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts, Brayton Point, closed in 2017 as environmental groups pushed for cleaner sources of electricity. It was the largest coal-fired generating station in New England, pumping out 1,600 megawatts of electricity for local homes and businesses. That site will now be used to support the offshore wind industry.

Ken Kimmell, Avangrid’s chief development officer, said New England Wind is also larger than other well-known plants in New England, including a nuclear plant in New Hampshire and a natural gas-fired plant in Massachusetts. Kimmell said Tuesday’s approval is a huge milestone.

“It’s a lot of energy to be added to the grid, which we desperately need. We need clean energy and new capacity to replace coal and nuclear plants that are retiring,” Kimmell said. “These wind farms are of such size and scale that they offer the region clean energy and a pathway to keep the lights on.”

It’s an indication of how far renewable energy has come that wind and solar projects are now the same size as nuclear, coal and gas plants, even if they don’t produce day and night without additional storage.

New England Wind will be situated south of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and built in two phases.

Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners are also currently building a wind farm off the Massachusetts coast. Vineyard Wind began delivering electricity to the power grid in February from five of its planned 62 wind turbines. The 800-megawatt project will generate electricity for 400,000 Massachusetts homes and businesses when it is fully constructed.

The Interior Department has approved more than 10 gigawatts of clean energy from offshore wind projects in less than three years, enough to power nearly 4 million homes. The nation's seventh large offshore wind project, Sunrise Wind, east of Montauk, New York, was approved just last week.

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