Massachusetts last week moved forward in building a wind farm off the coast of New Bedford. This project will generate 800 megawatts of electricity—enough to power half a million homes, the New York Times reports—and will be the first major offshore wind farm in the United States. While countries in Northern Europe have been using wind energy for more than two decades, the United States hasn’t invested much in the technology. However, that’s all starting to change. “This is an industry that is about to explode,” said Northeastern University’s engineering professor, Jerome Hajjar. He is part of a multi-university team of researchers outlining a national research infrastructure plan for offshore wind facilities.
There is enough wind energy capacity off the east coast to power the entire country, Hajjar said, and Massachusetts is the first state to invest heavily in taking advantage of this resource. Here, Hajjar, CDM Smith Professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, expresses where wind energy is headed and how Northeastern is poised to play a role in making the industry a success. When asked why haven’t there been wind farms built in New England until very recently, Hajjar opined that there has been a history of one wind farm they tried to develop off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard some years ago. It had support from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and a developer worked quite hard to make it successful. It got pretty close but didn’t come to fruition in the end. There were a lot of controversies associated with the proposed wind farm. Residents nearby were concerned about seeing the turbines and the financing ultimately did not come through fully. This is an incredible resource and hopefully, the country will work together to try to figure out how to harness it safely and effectively.