An individual offshore wind farm can produce far more energy than most onshore wind or solar installations; in terms of megawatts, the Vineyard wind farm will be larger than all but the three largest onshore wind farms in the US. But the industry has lagged in the US because of an onerous permitting process, high costs relative to other sources of wholesale electricity, and an obscure law from 1920 called the Jones Act that requires goods moved between US ports to be transported on US-flagged vessels (most of the specialized ships for offshore wind installation are European). The industry has been helped in recent years by the adoption in several coastal states of ambitious new clean energy mandates, and by $3 billion in new targeted loan guarantees set up by the Biden administration.

Vineyard Wind’s approval comes after more than a decade of planning and deliberation, and opposition raised by wealthy local homeowners, marine mammal conservationists, the US Navy, commercial fishing vessel operators, and Trump administration bureaucrats. With those obstacles cleared or accommodated, Vineyard Wind is a proof of concept that should allow future offshore wind projects in the US to face a smoother and quicker path to approval, said Bill White, Avangrid’s head of offshore wind, in an interview.

“There was a lot of uncertainty in this industry over the last few years,” he said. “But the stars are finally aligning, and what you’ll see is a quick acceleration and localization of the supply chain in the US.”

If so, that would go a long way toward helping the country hit the Biden administration’s goal to decarbonize the electric grid by 2035. A Princeton study in March concluded that meeting that goal will require many more farms like Vineyard Wind up and down the Atlantic coast, which is rich with strong, consistent wind; at least a dozen more are currently under consideration by state regulators in Virginia, New York, and elsewhere.

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