NEW BEDFORD – The city’s effort to become a major staging area for the offshore wind industry could pay off after Cape Wind scored a major legal victory Wednesday.
The developer of 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound plans to be the first to use New Bedford’s proposed port staging facility to deploy turbine parts, provided that work is done in time. Following the state Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling in favor of Cape Wind, Mayor Scott W. Lang said he is optimistic the staging area will be ready before the wind farm begins construction.
At the same time, Lang and other city officials stressed the planned work would allow the city’s port to accommodate many wind turbine projects in the future, not just this one.
“The South Terminal, while having Cape Wind as the first major tenant, should certainly not be contingent on only Cape Wind,” Lang said.
The proposed staging area would cost between $35 million and $40 million and could take a year to 18 months to complete. It’s still awaiting approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to city and state officials.
“The project can’t begin any work on the port until EPA permits are approved,” said Kate Plourd, a spokeswoman for Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, in an email message. “We are currently awaiting EPA permitting.”
However, Lang said the agency will likely issue permits in just a few months, and he thinks funding should come through the state’s Seaport Advisory Council.
Cape Wind, which plans to begin construction in 2013, would use the city’s facilities as long as they are ready in time, said Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for the project.
New Bedford has shown foresight in positioning itself as a staging area for the growing wind industry, and the high court ruling bodes well for everyone who is counting on the industry, Rodgers said.
“I think for all of the stakeholders who are really looking to get to work creating jobs in the offshore wind sector, today is a good day,” he said.
Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said while Cape Wind is a major leap forward, it’s not the end of offshore wind development, and the city’s facility has an anticipated life span of 50 years.
“The offshore wind industry is a no brainer,” Morrissey said. “We have the work force. We have the political will. We have the land available to put New Bedford on the map as a leading harbor for offshore wind on East Coast and over time create thousands of new jobs.”
Old port cities in Germany have gained thousands of jobs as a result of this industry. New Bedford would also take greater advantage of the export-import business with the port work, he said.