Hoping to have a hand in the development of monitoring technologies that will protect marine life like endangered Right whales, offshore wind developer Vineyard Wind is partnering with Somerville's Greentown Labs to launch a new program to support cleantech entrepreneurs.

The Greentown Labs and Vineyard Wind Launch program will be modeled after Greentown's flagship program that seeks to make connections between innovative entrepreneurs and various clean energy-related companies. Together, the two companies plan to "support early-stage startups developing technologies to improve the offshore wind energy and marine life value chains by providing the resources, training, and expert mentorship they need to advance their innovations."

Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen said he is hopeful that the innovation accelerator will lead to new technologies that add significant value to the billion-dollar projects his company and others plan to grow the burgeoning American offshore wind industry.

"Our company and dozens of others are poised to invest billions of dollars in construction and technology on projects that will only be improved by new marine data monitoring technologies," Pedersen said. "We look forward to working with Greentown to engage talented cleantech entrepreneurs and startups to develop technologies that will make offshore wind projects safer and more efficient."

More details on the partnership will become available in March when the companies plan to release a detailed request for proposals. A public kickoff event, featuring the announcement of the startups selected to participate in the launch program, is in the works for July, the companies said. An event to showcase the results of the 10-month program is planned for February 2021.

"We're thrilled to add Vineyard Wind to our network of Launch partners and we know offshore wind presents a tremendous opportunity to bring more clean energy to homes and businesses across the Northeast region and beyond," Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, said. "We're confident that by working closely with Vineyard Wind we'll be able to help deploy solutions to advance the industry and protect the environment."

Utility companies and the state tapped Vineyard Wind to construct an 800-megawatt wind farm 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard and 34 miles from the mainland to fulfill the first half of a 1,600-megawatt procurement called for in a 2016 clean energy law.

As it works to develop the country's first utility-scale offshore wind installation for Massachusetts and projects for other states, the developer last year struck an agreement with conservation groups to protect the critically endangered Right whales from harm associated with wind turbine construction and operation, and employs a small team of scientists. Earlier this month, Vineyard Wind hired Dr. Christopher Clark, a scientist and researcher who has written about the need for offshore wind development to take the protection of endangered Right whales and other marine species into account, to serve as a senior scientist on its team.

"Vineyard Wind has demonstrated its commitment to harmonizing protections for the iconic North Atlantic Right Whale and other marine life with ambitious efforts to bolster offshore wind," Nathanael Greene, a senior renewable energy policy analyst for climate and clean energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. "We're optimistic that this latest effort will similarly help advance innovation in the offshore wind industry and strengthen a host of vital environmental protections -- from monitoring wildlife, picking sites for offshore wind farms through to construction and operations."

Greentown Labs started its launch programs in 2015 and has led them for a variety of clean energy sectors, including solar, hydrogen and digital energy. The company said it is the largest cleantech incubator in North America and has supported more than 250 startups since its 2011 inception. Those companies, Greentown said, have raised more than $750 million in funding and created more than 6,500 direct jobs.

The announcement of a partnership with Greentown Labs is the latest indication that Vineyard Wind plans to forge ahead with its Massachusetts project despite confirmation from federal officials last week that the ongoing federal review of the Vineyard Wind project and the offshore wind sector generally is not expected to be wrapped up in time for Vineyard Wind to become operational by 2022, as had been planned.

The new federal permitting timeline envisions the issuance of a final permit by Dec. 18, 2020. Before the feds launched the broad review of wind projects last summer, a decision on permit approval had been expected by Aug. 16, 2019.

Vineyard Wind had originally planned to financially close on its project and begin on-shore construction work in 2019, put the first turbine into the seabed in 2021 and have the 84-turbine wind farm generating electricity in 2022.

Though the new timeline may lead to more headaches for Vineyard Wind and other offshore wind developers, Baker administration officials last week pointed to continued activity among Vineyard Wind, Mayflower Wind and other developers as evidence that the age of offshore wind energy is not over before it even began.

"There certainly has not been a chilling effect on the industry here," Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Katie Theoharides said last week after unveiling details of the state's second offshore wind energy procurement. "We saw very competitive bids come in for this solicitation. I think other states are seeing the same thing and Vineyard Wind has doubled down in Connecticut now at this point. There's a continued growth and momentum in the industry."