NEW BEDFORD – Will I get work from offshore wind? Will it hurt fishing? And will it raise electricity rates?
Those were some of the concerns visitors brought to a Bay State Wind open house Tuesday at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
The proposed offshore wind project is one of three competing in a state-led procurement process to build turbines in federal waters off Martha’s Vineyard. Proponents of all three projects are counting down to a Dec. 20 deadline to submit their bids.
Fishermen, business owners and others filtered into the three-hour event. There was no speaking program, and visitors were free to mingle with representatives of Bay State Wind’s joint backers, Danish energy company Ørsted (formerly DONG Energy) and utility company Eversource.
“Hopefully we get some business out of this,” said Dennis Desrosiers, a salesperson for New Bedford Welding Supply. He said his company already provided supplies for the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, which is expected to serve as a launching point for turbine installation.
Dartmouth resident Joan Dolian said she supports offshore wind, but she wonders if it will really happen. She and her husband live half the year in Norway, where about 98 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources – mostly from hydropower, but also from wind and thermal.
“I think that it’s a good way to go,” she said.
Three men who identified themselves as fishermen declined to comment. But John Williamson, a former commercial fisherman out of New Hampshire and Maine for 23 years who is consulting with Bay State Wind as a fisheries liaison, said fishermen generally are concerned about maintaining access to areas around wind turbines.
In Europe, he said, experience shows fishermen may see little effect in good weather, but when the wind picks up or conditions deteriorate, some opt not to fish near turbines for safety reasons.
“The experience in Europe is that these problems are solvable,” he said.
Laura Morse, a marine biologist who works as an environmental manager for Ørsted, said turbines and marine life can co-exist. Noise during construction presents the biggest issue for marine mammals, but curtains of air bubbles can be used to dampen sound if local species require it, just as with the driving of bridge pilings, she said.
As for rates, that information is “commercially sensitive” and will be in the bid proposal, said Lauren Burm, an Ørsted spokeswoman.
The open house was one of four that Bay State Wind is hosting around the region this week.
A 2016 state law requires Massachusetts electricity distribution companies – Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil – to buy long-term contracts for at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in the next decade. The first request for proposals called for projects to provide at least 400 megawatts of power.
The distribution companies and the state Department of Energy Resources will evaluate and rank the bids. The law calls for the department and the Attorney General’s Office to jointly select an independent evaluator to ensure a fair and transparent bid process, “not unduly influenced by an affiliated company.”
The bid timeline calls for one or more winners to be selected by April 23.
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