BOSTON – Executives with two companies poised to develop large-scale offshore wind projects south of Martha’s Vineyard said Thursday that while it is too early to formally commit to using New Bedford’s $113 million Marine Commerce Terminal, the scope of what they hope to do certainly would require facilities such as the deep-water berth and massive loading platform at the city’s south terminal.
“There is no doubt that if we are building an offshore wind project south of the Vineyard, New Bedford will be a big player in the construction work,” Erich Stephens, executive vice president of New Jersey-based OffshoreMW, said at the Statehouse in Boston.
“We’ll need a lot of ports and a lot of facilities,” echoed Thomas Brostrom, North America general manager for Denmark-based DONG Energy, which has been in the industry for decades and operates more than a dozen wind farms in European waters.
Offshore wind industry leaders, environmental advocates and several state legislators gathered Thursday in a Statehouse hearing room, to make their case for the inclusion of offshore wind in state energy legislation that could be drafted early next year.
“This really is a big, big moment for Massachusetts to finally launch this transformational clean energy source,” said senior manager Catherine Bowes of the National Wildlife Federation, a lead host of the event. “What’s missing is the state commitment to seize that opportunity and really bring it online.”
State Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, noted the potential cost of offshore wind power is the “800-pound gorilla,” as the state considers its energy future. Gov. Charlie Baker has shown support for options including hydrological power transmitted from Canada, while natural gas and solar could be shouldering for space in energy legislation, as well.
State Rep. Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset, is a leader of the effort to require utilities to purchase offshore wind power. Such requirements would lead to long-term contracts that Stephens said are vital to the private financing and construction of turbines.
OffshoreMW and DONG Energy, known in Massachusetts as Bay State Wind, are hoping to develop large-scale turbine farms on adjacent leases of federal waters about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.
A third company, Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind, holds a lease for federal waters just west of those areas and already is building a small, five-turbine farm off Block Island.
All three are several years away from large-scale construction – estimates for offshore wind power entering the grid, should stars align, fall early in the 2020s – but offshore wind backers are hoping legislative support can move permitting and development processes forward.
Haddad said Thursday that wind farms on the federal waters could “generate at least 10,000 megawatts, minimum,” in decades ahead. That’s in comparison to the 680-megawatt Pilgrim nuclear plant that’s slated to shut down in Plymouth by June 2019, and the “8,000 to 9,000 megawatts” that Montigny said will be lost across Massachusetts in coming years.
DONG Energy’s Bay State Wind project could produce up to 1,000 megawatts of power, enough for 500,000 homes, according to its website. The company has installed about 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind power in European waters.
Montigny said he has no doubt an offshore wind push would bring jobs economic benefits to New Bedford, based on conversations he’s had with OffshoreMW and DONG Energy executives.
“I told them, ‘I want to know specifically what you’re going to do in that terminal,’” he said Thursday. “And to a person they said, ‘That won’t even be enough capacity if this goes the way we hope it does.’”
Brostrom said DONG Energy wind farms commonly create about 1,000 construction jobs for two or three years, then about 100 jobs for long-term maintenance.
“They are saying if you build it to scale, we need more than just the New Bedford terminal,” Montigny said.
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