Wind power is a key part of transitioning off of polluting, risky energy sources like fracked gas, and to building a robust renewable energy economy. This is especially relevant to Massachusetts, where U.S. Senator Ed Markey dubbed the areas off of our southern coast the “Saudi Arabia of wind” due to the consistent wind patterns that will allow utility-scale offshore wind farms to produce incredible amounts of clean, safe energy. When Massachusetts passed legislation in 2016 directing utility companies to procure 1,600 MW of offshore wind, it signalled the industry that our state is getting serious. Since then, other states like New York have followed suit with even larger announcements. The first offshore wind farm in the entire United States is now up and running off the coast of Block Island in Rhode Island, providing the small island with all of its electricity needs and producing no pollution in the process.
Offshore wind is a massive economic opportunity for Massachusetts. The cities of Salem and New Bedford, Massachusetts are poised to lead the nation in assembly and deployment of offshore wind equipment. Not only will the Commonwealth’s embrace of offshore wind bring local investment, much like solar it will also bring thousands of local family-sustaining jobs, cleaner air, cleaner water, healthier people, and a safer climate.
We have an astounding amount of offshore wind potential:
- According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) the Atlantic Ocean has 1,283.5 gigawatts (GW) of potential offshore wind on the Eastern seaboard. That’s enough to power most of the homes along the Atlantic coast.
- According to Environment Massachusetts, our state’s offshore wind potential is equivalent to 19 times our state’s annual electricity consumption.
Even with all of our transportation and heating systems converted to electricity, offshore wind could still produce 8 times Massachusetts’ annual consumption.
Offshore wind offers cheap and stable prices:
- The winning bid for our state’s first offshore wind farm was Vineyard Wind, and their prices were an incredible surprise. Even wind advocates were shocked at how low these prices came in. While the project was priced out in blocks and phases, the average price was $0.065/kWh for 20 years. That’s cheaper than most renewables and fossil fuels!
- This plan also includes funds for offshore wind workforce development, a “Marine Mammals and Wind Fund,” and a commitment to spend $1million per year for 15 years to support solar + storage projects for resiliency and low-income resident benefits to communities hosting pieces of the project.
- Offshore wind costs are concentrated upfront during research and construction, but rather low in the long term, and the reason is pretty simple - wind is free! Fossil fuels are a finite commodity and their prices are highly volatile. Fracked gas prices continue to fluctuate greatly year over year. By supporting offshore wind, we can help stabilize energy prices for our residents and reduce pollution at the same time.
Despite these clear benefits, your voice is still needed to help accelerate Massachusetts progress
Support With Your Voice
Be involved. Get your community involved. Write and call your elected officials, and ask them what they are doing to support rapid growth in wind energy. When are we going to make big commitments like those of New York? When are we going to finally STOP allowing fossil fuel pipelines to be built in our state? Click here to find your elected officials.
There are many ways you can support wind power with your energy dollars, and with your voice. We elect our policymakers, and we can elect new ones. We can demand that they help the wind industry and renewable energy continue growing. We can transition Massachusetts to 100% renewable energy, and set an example for the rest of the country while we do it.
To learn how you can get involved, contact Jess Nahigian.
Support With Your Energy Dollars
There are a number of ways Massachusetts residents can support wind (and renewable energy in general).If you pay an electricity bill, you can help.
Sign up for the "Green Powered" program through Green Energy Consumers Alliance.
They are a non-profit group we have worked with for years to help advance renewable energy in Massachusetts. Your participation in this program helps install new renewable energy facilities here in New England. Plus, when you sign up through this link, Massachusetts Sierra Club will receive a small donation, meaning you will be supporting our mission in more ways than one!
Find Out If Your Community Has A Green Municipal Aggregation Program.
Over 40 cities and towns in Massachusetts have set up “green municipal aggregation” programs for their residents and businesses. What this means, basically, is that while your utility company remains the same, the municipality is able to negotiate bulk-purchase agreements for the electricity on behalf of all of its residents and businesses. This results in percentages of renewable energy higher than what is required by the state of Massachusetts, and some programs also include an option for you to “opt-up” to 100% renewable. However, not all municipal aggregation programs are “green” programs. Some negotiate bulk prices and unfortunately miss the opportunity to support an increase in renewable energy. To see a list of Green Aggregation programs, and to learn how your town can get one started, visit this helpful page from Green Energy Consumers Alliance.
Additional Wind Questions Answered
What about when the wind isn't blowing?
Offshore wind is strongest during the day and late afternoon, when our demand for electricity is highest. Other renewable resources, like land-based wind, are often strongest during the night. It is important to use a diverse portfolio of renewable resources and technologies, including offshore wind, land-based wind, energy storage, and solar. Together these various energy sources, strongest at different times of day and in different areas, can complement each other for a robust energy supply that satisfies demand across the electrical grid at all times.
How far offshore will the wind turbines be? (Will I be able to see them from shore?)
Offshore wind farms are typically located between five and 15 miles from shore. At that distance, they would appear to the naked eye about as wide as a toothpick and create minimal impact to shoreline views.
What are offshore wind developers doing to make sure seabirds and marine life is protected?
Some studies focused on European wind farms have found that offshore wind is safe for seabirds and marine life. Wind farms have been found to help fish populations: turbines create artificial reefs, which provide an increase in fish habitat. Developers have developed techniques to minimize sound pollution to avoid harming marine mammals and sea turtles.
While transitioning to offshore wind and other forms of power is a critical step in the fight to end climate disruption we must also be responsible stewards of our oceans. The Sierra Club is committed to ensuring that offshore wind is sited responsibly. Offshore wind projects should be constructed and operated in a way that avoids, minimizes, and mitigates impacts to environmental resources.
This process is one that will require engagement from Federal and local authorities and from coastal communities. The development of large-scale, offshore renewable energy projects will require ocean zoning, environmental review, permitting and leasing of specific regions of the ocean, which will require new governance structures and legal frameworks.
We’re committed to being engaged in that process.
For instance, the Sierra Club is working with offshore wind developers and environmental advocates to ensure the protection of the North American Right Whale as offshore wind is developed along the eastern seaboard.