Massachusetts Gains Foothold in Offshore Wind Power, Long Ignored in U.S.

New York Times

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — On the waterfront of this fabled former whaling hub, the outlines of a major new industry are starting to appear.

Crews of research boats perform last-minute tuneups before heading out to map the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. A large weather buoy decked out with gear for measuring wind speeds waits on the quay for repairs. And a 1,200-foot stretch of the port has been beefed up to bear enormous loads.

New Bedford hopes to soon be the operations center for the first major offshore wind farm in the United States, bringing billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs to the town and other ports on the East Coast.

On Wednesday, that effort took a major step forward as the State of Massachusetts, after holding an auction, selected a group made up of a Danish investment firm and a Spanish utility to erect giant turbines on the ocean bottom, beginning about 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard. This initial project will generate 800 megawatts of electricity, roughly enough to power a half a million homes. At the same time, Rhode Island announced it would award a 400-megawatt offshore wind project to another bidder in the auction.

The groups must now work out the details of their contracts with the states’ utilities.

“We see this not just as a project but as the beginning of an industry,” Lars Thaaning Pedersen, the chief executive of Vineyard Wind, which was awarded the Massachusetts contract, said in an interview.

Offshore wind farms have increasingly become mainstream sources of power in Northern Europe, and are fast becoming among the cheapest sources of electricity in countries like Britain and Germany. Those power sources in those two countries already account for more than 12 gigawatts of electricity generation capacity.

But the United States has largely not followed that lead, with just one relatively small offshore wind farm built off the coast of Rhode Island. Currently, the entire country’s offshore wind capacity is just 30 megawatts.

Jeff Grybowski, chief executive of Deepwater Wind, which won the Rhode Island portion, said that together the two projects add up to a European-scale package. “This shows the U.S. is catching up rapidly to the developments in Europe,” he said.

Such projects have run into opposition here over both cost and aesthetics — utilities are typically required to opt for the cheapest sources of power, and communities have resisted plans regarded as eyesores. Senator Edward M. Kennedy helped block a wind project off the coast of Cape Cod that would have been visible from the family estate.

But the technology has the potential to bring large supplies of energy to the Northeast. Arrays of wind turbines with generation capacities comparable to major conventional power plants would be mostly out of sight, albeit within easy transmission reach of large population centers like Boston and New York City.

“We could run the whole East Coast on offshore wind,” said Amory B. Lovins, co-founder and chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization that advises on renewable energy.

Massachusetts is looking to capitalize. It wants to add 1,600 megawatts of electricity by 2027. That would be enough to power a third of all residential homes in the state and supply 11 percent of its overall needs. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a state agency, also estimates that the projects could generate 9,850 jobs over 10 years, and add $2.1 billion to the state’s economy.

Developers say the state’s plan includes a series of projects large enough to help spawn a network of local suppliers of everything from components for the turbines to services like maintaining them, and drive down costs. Other states are pushing forward as well. Connecticut will soon name a developer for an offshore wind project of its own, while New York and New Jersey have both announced ambitious plans.

New England is particularly well suited to offshore wind farms. There is not enough land for wind turbines onshore, and the area is not ideal for solar power. At the same time, Massachusetts has been under pressure to find new sources of energy to replace aging conventional and nuclear plants, as well as meet targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change.

The state is betting that, by investing in offshore wind decades after Northern Europe first tested the technology, it can avoid some of the growing pains experienced across the Atlantic.

For years, projects there required large government subsidies to be economically viable. Recently, technical advances and plummeting prices have meant that countries like Germany and the Netherlands have been able to award offshore wind projects with zero subsidies. As a bonus, offshore wind farms have supported thousands of jobs in port cities in the region.

Two of the three bids in Massachusetts came from European developers. The winner was a joint venture of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, a Danish renewable energy investment firm, and a subsidiary of Iberdrola, a Spanish utility. The other bids came from a consortium led by the Danish wind giant Orsted, and Deepwater Wind, which is based in Providence, R.I., and mainly owned by D.E. Shaw, an investment firm.

“We know in light of Northern Europe’s experience with offshore wind that many U.S. ports will benefit from the arrival of the industry here,” Jon Mitchell, the New Bedford mayor, said in an interview.

New Bedford has benefited from a lucrative sector before. In the mid-19th century, its whaling industry made it one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. “Nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like houses; parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford,” Herman Melville wrote in his epic novel, “Moby-Dick.”

In the hopes of another such boost, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the state agency, has already spent $113 million dredging the harbor and expanding and reinforcing a 29-acre marine commerce terminal. The state is preparing it to load the components of turbines that stretch up to 600 feet high and weigh many tons onto special vessels for installation at sea.

Whether Massachusetts can pull of its ambitious plans will depend to some degree on local issues — and not everyone in the area is enthusiastic.

In particular, some of New Bedford’s fishermen are worried. The city’s port is already home to hundreds of fishing boats, as well as seafood auction houses and processing plants. It generates about $3.3 billion a year and supports about 6,200 jobs, according to the local authorities.

“You don’t want to destroy one type of sustainable energy harvest with another one,” said Kevin Stokesbury, a professor at the School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Eric Hansen, a scallop fisherman, said that he and his colleagues were concerned about threading their way through a relatively narrow allotted path through spinning turbines.

“Think fog, heavy seas,” he said.

Even so, wind power is gaining its adherents.

Opposition to offshore wind in the state appears to have quieted since the death of Mr. Kennedy in 2009. The senator and his family successfully resisted a project off Cape Cod that would have been the first offshore wind farm in the United States, a project proposed in 2001.

The area’s high electricity prices may prove, counterintuitively, to be a plus. Power prices in Massachusetts are the second highest in the nation, behind only Hawaii’s, and high rates prevail in much of the rest of New England and in New York. As a result, customers might be more willing to pay the increased early prices for power generated by offshore wind.

The economic boost, too, is appealing, especially in a once-affluent city of 100,000 people.

Kevin McLaughlin employs more than 100 people in his shipyards across the harbor at Fairhaven, and has already won additional work from offshore operators.

“As long as there are boats that will be here,” he said, “it is business for us.”

Follow Stanley Reed and Ivan Penn on Twitter: @stanleyreed12 and @ivanlpenn.

Stanley Reed reported from New Bedford, and Ivan Penn from Los Angeles.

Original Article here.

 

‘Taking it in’: Vineyard Wind wins offshore wind contract with Massachusetts

Vineyard Wind has been selected for Massachusetts’ first offshore wind contract, and Deepwater Wind will receive a contract from Rhode Island based on its Massachusetts bid, state officials announced Wednesday.

Together, their projects total 1,200 megawatts and establish a new industry in the region.

Vineyard Wind was awarded an 800-megawatt wind farm — up to 100 turbines — in federal waters about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Deepwater’s project, called Revolution Wind, will be half the size, located south of Little Compton, Rhode Island, and Westport, Massachusetts.

“I’m still at the point of … taking it in,” said Erich Stephens, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, minutes after the public announcement just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The two companies were competing with a third bidder, Bay State Wind, in a Massachusetts procurement process, mandated by state law, to provide power to the state’s electric companies. The electric companies selected the winners in concert with the state.

Massachusetts’ choice to award 800 megawatts to a single bidder, rather than split the work into two, came as a surprise to many and somewhat of a disappointment to New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

“Overall, I’m pleased we’ve arrived at this day,” he said in an interview. He said the day marks an important milestone, but he would have liked to see two projects receive Massachusetts contracts in the first round.

“There would be a greater level of competition for investment commitments in the port,” he said. In addition, having two projects underway at once would be a hedge against one project’s delay holding up in the industry, he said.

Mitchell did not endorse a project. The city will work with any of the developers, he said.

Both of the companies that were not selected in Massachusetts had made specific financial commitments to local colleges, contingent upon winning a contract. Bay State Wind pledged $1 million to Bristol Community College to endow a faculty position in wind energy. Deepwater Wind committed $1 million for a research project called the Blue Economy Initiative at the University of Massachusetts, to be led by the UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology, which is in New Bedford.

Each of the three companies presented a package of enticements, some rolled out over time. For example, Bay State Wind offered $17.5 million for energy assistance and weatherization for low-income families.

Vineyard Wind’s enticements totaled $15 million: $10 million for a fund to develop the wind business supply chain in Massachusetts; $3 million to develop technologies to protect marine mammals from the effects of offshore wind construction; and $2 million to recruit, mentor and train in-state workers.

The mayor said the Massachusetts decision shows Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration chose mainly on price. Details of the pricing have not been made public. However, officials in the Baker administration did agree Wednesday that pricing was the most significant element, but not the only one.

Officials from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Energy Resources, who asked not to be named because the administration issued its official comments in writing, said a rigorous analysis of the bids gave Vineyard Wind the overall highest score in both qualitative and quantitative benefits — that is, price and other advantages.

Non-price factors included the effect on the economy and environment, the experience of the backers, and the construction schedule, they said. In addition, Vineyard Wind’s early timeline allows it to take advantage of a tax credit that would not be as generous later, they said.

The officials said they plan to work on new initiatives to address the concerns of fishermen, who have said the turbines could negatively affect the natural habitat.

Significant work lies ahead to reconcile differences with the fishing industry, Mayor Mitchell said.

Tony Sapienza, president of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said he was excited for the winners and “a little bit surprised” that Massachusetts didn’t go with two bidders. But he believes all three companies will be generating electricity in the region before the state finishes procuring the full 1,600 megawatts required by law.

“I think that’s a given,” he said.

All three bidders have room in their federal lease areas for more turbines in the future.

Derek Santos, the council’s executive director, said the city could still stage the installation of both projects from the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal. All three companies committed to use the terminal for Massachusetts projects, but no such commitment applies to Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said “the overwhelming majority” of his project’s work will take place in Rhode Island.

Although New Bedford is not completely out of the picture, “clearly our principal commitment is to Rhode Island,” he said.

Still, Santos considers the award a positive development, and the council will continue to work to maximize the benefits to the port, he said.

Baker said in a news release that the announcement makes the state a hub for an emerging industry and brings it one step closer to “creating a clean, reliable and cost-effective energy future for Massachusetts residents, and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.”

In the Vineyard Wind office on Wednesday, employees fielded phone calls and planned to make a dinner reservation to celebrate, Stephens said.

“New Bedford’s going to be a busy place real soon,” he said.

For him as for others, getting a full 800 megawatts, instead of sharing the award, came as a surprise.

“I was hopeful we might get something,” he said.

Stephens said the company is excited to continue pursuing permits, surveying the ocean floor, and talking to potential suppliers. Construction could begin by the end of 2019.

Vineyard Wind is owned jointly by the Danish investment company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, a division of Connecticut-based energy company Avangrid, which is owned by Iberdrola of Spain.

Bay State Wind, which did not win a contract, issued a statement attributed to two people from its parent companies: Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America, and Lee Olivier, an executive vice president at Eversource.

“We’re disappointed by today’s decision by the Massachusetts evaluation team,” they said in the statement. “We made a compelling offer to help the commonwealth meet its ambitious clean energy goals while maintaining strong financial discipline. Further, our proposal to interconnect our project into the former Brayton Point facility in Somerset, Massachusetts, would ensure clean energy delivery into one of the strongest connections on New England’s electrical grid.”

“We remain fully committed to our Bay State Wind partnership, as together we pursue future solicitations in New England and New York,” they said.

The award to Vineyard Wind is conditional upon the successful negotiation of a contract, and the deal must be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. The schedule calls for contracts to be negotiated by July 2 and submitted for approval by July 31.

A 2016 state law requires electric companies doing business in Massachusetts — Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil — to buy 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in the next decade, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

‘We’re ready to go’: New Bedford airport gears up for next big thing

After an Elite Airlines flight landed at New Bedford Regional Airport last winter, three administrators walked onto the runway with umbrellas.

As passengers exited the plane, Airport Director Scot Servis, Assistant Director Michael Crane and Airport Commission Chairman Paul Barton shielded them from the rain.

“We’re not a big airport like T.F. Green or Logan. We can’t offer things they offer. But we can offer things that they can’t offer,” Barton said. “We can offer these little things.”

Barton hopes little things like $5 parking per day, quick processing through security and the aforementioned plane to terminal service add up to attract not only passengers but airlines.

Elite Airlines didn’t extend service beyond its initial six-week test flight from December through January, but Barton is hopeful Elite will return in the fall. The airline would join Island Shuttle, which will rival Cape Air in small flights to Cape and the Island. Barton said service for Island Shuttle will begin this summer.

He was also optimistic about a third airline that could provide round trips to JFK Airport in New York in 2019. While Barton chose not to name the airline, he said it is affiliated with a larger airline, which would allow passengers an array of options through New Bedford.

“You could actually buy a ticket in New Bedford and end up in California,” Barton said.

The airport launched a new website (flyewb.com) as another way to facilitate passengers’ experience, providing flight updates and parking and rental information among other things.

He was also optimistic about a third airline that could provide round trips to JFK Airport in New York in 2019. While Barton chose not to name the airline, he said it is affiliated with a larger airline, which would allow passengers an array of options through New Bedford.

“You could actually buy a ticket in New Bedford and end up in California,” Barton said.

The airport launched a new website (flyewb.com) as another way to facilitate passengers’ experience, providing flight updates and parking and rental information among other things.

“If New Bedford is dreaming up service, there’s other airports dreaming about it too,” Servis said. “I’m sure we’re not the only ones knocking on the doors. And in the end, it depends on which airport could provide the best deal for the airline and where they see the most passengers coming out of.”

Whichever airline lands in New Bedford it will be on new runways.

Runway 5-23 was repaired about three years ago and crews began tearing up 14-32 three weeks ago.

“There’s so much potential sitting on the plate right now,” Barton said. “Once this is done, we’re going to have two new runways. We have a lot interest, believe me, from the public. We’re ready to go.”

The work will cut the runway’s width in half from 150 to 75 feet. A lack of funding didn’t allow for the runway to be renovated at its original width, however, Servis said the shrinkage hasn’t turned off airlines.

The neighbors living around the airport may have noticed less traffic around the area compared to the last runway repair. Since that time, the airport installed a maintenance road.

“It was a big lesson learned from the 5-23 project,” Servis said. “Hauling all these trucks and all this equipment with the asphalt back and forth through the neighborhood drove the neighbors crazy.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

Original story here.

$300K coming to Whaling Museum, Zeiterion, The Strand

Three institutions in the city are getting a $300,000 boost from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, announced state Rep. Antonio F. D. Cabral on Friday.

The MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors approved the grants Thursday for three projects planned for the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Zeiterion Performing Arts Center and the Cape Verdean Association of New Bedford.

“We’re delighted to support these exciting New Bedford projects as part of our ongoing investment in the city’s burgeoning cultural economy,” said Anita Walker, Mass Cultural Council executive director, in a statement. “Thanks to Rep. Cabral, who as House Bonding Committee chair has been a steadfast supporter of the CFF alongside Sen. (Mark) Montigny and their colleagues in the New Bedford legislative delegation.”

WHALING MUSEUM

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is set to receive a $170,000 capital grant to construct an urban greenspace on the museum’s campus, which will facilitate an outdoor gallery and public programming, according to a news release.

The greenspace is the soon-to-be-expanded Capt. Paul Cuffe Park. The museum hosted a groundbreaking ceremony in late March, and construction is under way.

The new Capt. Paul Cuffe Park will elevate the current park facing Union Street to the level of the doorstep of the Johnnycake Hill building behind it, the Wattles Jacobs Education Center. The work will connect what are now the high and low sides of the parcel, enlarging the available space and making it easier to access.

Cuffe, whose story began in the late 18th century, had roles as sea captain, philanthropist, community leader, civil rights activist and abolitionist.

ZEITERION

The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center will receive a $100,000 capital grant to restore its marquee.

In 2015, the theater began renovations, including fixing leaks, repairing the white terracotta decorations and bricks on the building’s exterior. In later phases, doors and windows will be replaced, and the marquee above the entrance will hang once more.

THE STRAND

The Cape Verdean Association of New Bedford was awarded a $30,000 feasibility and technical assistance grant, to plan for the restoration of the Strand Theater in the gateway to the “International Marketplace” in New Bedford to house the Cape Verdean Cultural Center.

In WHALE’s first foray into the city’s North End, it has partnered with the Cape Verdean Association to restore and renovate the group’s home in an old vaudeville theater. The building, built in 1896, has had a lot of patchwork repairs and is used for small-scale music and cultural performances.

The building, with a scorched ceiling from a fire in the early 1990s, was bought by the group in 1992 as a place to promote and maintain Cape Verdean culture.

WHALE and the association plan to replace the Italianate facade of the theater, the blueprints for which have been stored all this time in New Bedford City Hall.

“New Bedford’s creative economy is attracting visitors and talent from across the country— these capital investments will further bolster our reputation as a hub of cultural activity,” said Cabral in a statement. “The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the anchor of our City’s downtown, while the Zeiterion has transformed itself into an entertainment destination. Thanks to the feasibility grant, the Strand Theater’s planned restoration will allow our Cape Verdean community to truly flourish.”

Original story here.

$1M grant ‘a big step into the future’ for New Bedford waterfront

Posted Feb 13, 2018 at 5:30 PM

A $1 million grant awarded Tuesday will make life on the waterfront a little easier for New Bedford’s Police and Fire Departments as well as the Harbor Development Commission.

The Seaport Economic Council approved the grant, which will help the city build a 2,745-square-foot Central Command Center on City Pier 3 for the three departments.

“This is really, really critical,” Executive Director of the HDC Ed Anthes Washburn said. “Right now our operations are spread (out).”

Currently, the HDC is housed in the Wharfinger Building, with two assistant harbormasters located at Popes Island. New Bedford police marine unit is based in a small building near the Wharfinger Building, while firefighters are located on Pleasant Street.

The application for the grant stated the building would offer office space for HDC staff, space for police and fire as well as response and training rooms to provide streamlined communication among the three units during daily port operations and emergencies.

“By being able to pool everyone together and put them into one command center, the collaboration becomes very effective,” Police Chief Joe Cordeiro said. “It enables us to expand and share technology. It’s all in one center.”

Anthes Washburn pointed to the recent sinkings of the fishing vessels Nemesis and Dinah Jane as an example of how a Command Center is beneficial. While each arm of the city responded separately, if they were under one roof, the response would allow for a quicker reaction.

“This will get us much closer to our response assets,” Fire Chief Michael Gomes said. “And having the police marine security unit, the port authority, and the assistant harbormasters all in the same building and in same place will increase coordination.”

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration awarded a total of $4.1 million to five marine infrastructure projects through the Seaport Economic Council. Mayor Jon Mitchell is a member of the council.

“The Seaport Economic Council is committed to helping communities effectively leverage their maritime resources, to create new opportunities for residents, tourists and businesses,” said Carolyn Kirk, the deputy secretary of Housing and Economic Development and vice-chair of the Seaport Economic Council.

The Harbor Development Commission stated it had outgrown its current building. Space will also be offered to state and federal authorities, like the Environmental Police and Coast Guard, if needed.

The new building will offer ample room for the HDC, police and fire to hold joint meetings, which wouldn’t be new, but are currently held in cramped space.

The $1 million grant will cover the majority of cost. The HDC will provide the remaining funds, which are yet to be determined, but Anthes Washburn said it would be at least $250,000.

The goal, he said, is to complete construction in June 2019.

“We really need a place to effectively manage traffic and manage the operations of a port like this,” Anthes Washburn said. “This grant from the seaport council is huge in having the port itself take a big step into the future.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

Original story here.

New Union Street building introduces hub for creative minds

Tracy Silva Barbosa never tires of the feeling after she introduces friends to her home.

They visit, look at her glass art, perhaps dine at a restaurant downtown and always leave with the same reaction.

“I never knew it was so beautiful and all of this wonderful stuff,” Barbosa said of the recurring reactions.

Barbosa lived in New York City for a decade before returning to the state where she grew up. Like many of her visitors, New Bedford impressed Barbosa and her husband. The culture and ever-growing art scene attracted them to make it their new home.

In January it will also be the home of her new business. Duende Glass will occupy a space in a new 10,000 square foot unit on Union Street dubbed a Co-Creative space by WHALE.

Barbosa, like multiple others whether it be artists or “creatives”, will use the space to create art and also sell it.

“I think the Co-Creative Center is just another spore from that flower,” Barbosa said. “It’s coming out of people who genuinely care and want to bring out the wonderful character this city has and bring it out in a tasteful way.”

There’s three levels to the building sitting beside The Garden and running along Acushnet Avenue.

The second floor of the building will consist of non-profit office space, apartments, and artist studios, which are already leased. The third floor consists of a two-bedroom market rate apartment.

The first floor, where Duende Glass and People’s Pressed, a juice and coffee shop, will be located, will house a public creative space.

The plan is to utilize the area closest to Union Street as a marketplace. Behind it will be a learning area where classes can be taught by anyone in the community. At the back of the building, bordering a park, the area will be used as a creative space filled with up-to-date technology like fabrication equipment and computer stations as well as work benches.

“We’re hoping we can build a community of Creatives,” WHALE Development Coordinator Amanda DeGrace said.

The first floor learning space will act as a chameleon of storts, blending into whatever the community envisions its best use.

DeGrace said there are 15 classes currently being discussed that would be available for public participation. They range from graphic design, creative writing, visual artists, sewing and even jam making. The class list continues to grow as community members continue to pitch ideas.

“We need to open the doors and see what this community wants this place to be,” DeGrace said.

Below the “Co-Make” area is a basement geared toward more industrial and textile creating as well as storage for artists.

Much like Gallery X on William Street or the studios in the former mill building on West Rodney French Boulevard brought Barbosa to the city, the Co-Creative Center hopes to attract even more imaginative minds.

“Through the Co-Creative more diverse artists come,” Barbosa said. “You want to have some cross pollination and that’s what innovation is.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

Original story here.

New Bedford Regional Airport adds commercial flights to Florida

With FAA 139 certification, more commercial airlines will follow

NEW BEDFORD— A pair of propeller-powered planes parked on the runway behind Jon Mitchell on Wednesday. Another buzzed over the mayor’s head as he announced the game-changing impending arrival of commercial airlines at the city airport.

Propeller-power planes will be sharing runways with jet engines soon as the airport gained FAA 139 certification, opening its airspace to planes that can carry more than nine passengers.

“This is really a big triumph for the city and the region,” Mitchell said.

In order to obtain 139 certification, an airport needs a letter of intent from an airline to begin the process.

Airport manager Scot Servis confirmed one airline has committed to New Bedford, but wasn’t ready to state which one.

Once it’s official, Servis said flights should take off in about two months, then others could follow.

“A lot of airlines say ‘Once you get your 139 inspection, give us a call. We’ll take a look,’” Servis said. “Not a lot like to jump out ahead because they know it’s a long process.”

For now, passengers should be able to count the flights per week on their hand.

Servis estimated at the start, there may be only one or two flights per week. The destination will likely be New York City where travelers can connect to locations across the country.

“We think that local businesses can gain an advantage and we can attract other businesses by having an airport that allows for convenient travel from New Bedford to New York, in particular, and beyond,” Mitchell said.

The current terminal includes a restaurant and offers Budget car rentals. As the airport becomes more popular, Mitchell envisions a new terminal.

More commercial airlines may be months away, but the certification, which began on July 1 should instantly increase the volume of air traffic.

The attraction lies in New Bedford’s lower landing fees and cheaper gas.

“That’s going to help the city because when we sell fuel we make money,” the chairman of the New Bedford Regional Airport Commission Paul Barton said. “In landing fees the city’s going to make money.”

The 139 certification attracts private planes because it lowers insurance rates for incoming transportation. New Bedford is now one of 22 airports in New England that possesses 139 certification.

The airport held the certification in the past but it lapsed in the 1990s.

Re-obtaining it required an update of the main runway.

“Once the main runway got resurfaced it really opened us up to doing more,” Servis said.

The FAA looked into every aspect of the airport, including how it ran during the day and night, scanned through its records, and examined its fire equipment.

The addition of more commercial flights also requires a TSA checkpoint, which has been constructed and awaits federal approval. The city had no doubt it would be federalized and labeled the 139 certification a much larger hurdle.

“It is more expensive to run a 139 airport because the level of maintenance that needs to get done is higher,” Servis said. “But it also means it’s safer and better.”

The expansion should be felt within the city’s economy too.

“The ability to fly commercial and private aircraft will help boom the economy locally,” president and CEO of SouthCoast Chamber Rick Kidder said.

“If you were trying to get over the bridges this weekend, you’ll greatly appreciate the proximity of the New Bedford Airport and our ferry services.”

Original story here.

Can offshore wind revive America’s ports? This town hopes so

Benjamin Storrow, E&E News reporter

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — This salt-caked fishing port has been flush with wind prospectors ever since Massachusetts legislators passed a law for massive wind development in the shallow waters south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Ed Anthes-Washburn, a local port official, estimates he gives five harbor tours a month to wind industry representatives. Planning for the industry’s arrival now occupies much of his time, alongside proposals to redevelop several old industrial sites and a Seattle-style fish pier.

“It started Aug. 8, the day the governor signed the bill,” Anthes-Washburn said, gazing out over the harbor here, where a mass of fishing trawlers, scallopers and clam boats formed a rocking forest of rigging and nets. “It’s been pretty consistent since then.”

States up and down the Atlantic coast are rushing to become the capital of America’s burgeoning offshore wind industry, hoping the massive turbines will breathe new life into ports mired by a shrinking fishing industry and a flagging industrial base.

Maryland officials last month approved renewable energy credits for two developments totaling 368 megawatts off their shores in a bid to transform Baltimore and Ocean City into the industry’s manufacturing and maintenance hub in the Mid-Atlantic (Climatewire, May 12).

Lawmakers in New Jersey are counting down the days until Gov. Chris Christie (R) leaves office early next year, when they plan to restore their own credits for offshore wind developments (Energywire, June 9).

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) wants to bring 2,400 megawatts of wind power online by 2030 (Energywire, Jan. 11).

But few places are betting on offshore wind quite like New Bedford.

‘Diversification play’

This blue-collar city of roughly 95,000 people on the south coast of Massachusetts is the closest commercial port to one of the best offshore wind resources in North America, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. And where offshore wind development has struggled in the past, the ocean is now open for business. Three companies have secured federal leases for projects 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

New Bedford officials have wasted no time positioning their city as the port of choice for the emerging industry. Massachusetts has invested $113 million in the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, a 26-acre parcel designed to withstand the heavy loads needed to accommodate large wind turbines.

A consortium of local colleges has created a curriculum to prepare students for the day that specialized watercraft is needed to ferry technicians out to the hulking turbines. And state and local officials are busy hosting workshops intended to create an onshore supply chain to serve the growing industry.

There are even a few signs of the industry’s presence in New Bedford Harbor. On a recent day, the Ocean Researcher, a survey vessel belonging to the Danish wind giant Dong Energy, was preparing to cast off from the marine commerce terminal.

“This is the largest commercial fishing port in the United States. Our people know what they’re doing out in the mid-Atlantic. We have all those things going for us,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

“For us, the offshore wind industry represents a strong diversification play,” he added. “This is an industry that will be around for the foreseeable future. It will be the source of a variety of types of jobs. And we want to play up our attributes and make the most of the opportunity. It isn’t an end-all, be-all. It’s more about diversifying our industrial base.”

Europe’s decaying fishing ports offer a tantalizing example of what New Bedford could be. Ports along the United Kingdom’s eastern coast have witnessed £400 million ($512 million) in investment related to wind development since 2011, according to a 2016 report commissioned by the Offshore Wind Industry Council.

Dong, the world’s largest wind developer, plans on investing £6 billion in the Humber region on the United Kingdom’s east coast by 2019. The company estimates its developments in the North Sea will create 1,600 construction jobs and 500 long-term jobs in a region that has been devastated by the fishing industry’s decline. Siemens AG recently opened a £310 million blade factory in Hull, one of the Humber’s largest communities, creating 1,000 jobs.

‘A new life,’ but risks loom

The appeal is obvious in a city like New Bedford, where fortunes rise and fall with the price of scallops and the unemployment rate stands at 7.2 percent, almost double the Massachusetts average.

“If you read their history, it’s like reading New Bedford’s history,” said Paul Vigeant, who doubles as Bristol Community College’s vice president of workforce development and the director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center. “Once the proud whaling capital, then the fishing capital of the U.K. until they lost the cod war to Iceland. And now they find themselves the closest port to the offshore wind sites, and they’ve got a new life.”

But where Europe’s offshore industry has boomed in recent years, its American counterpart remains in its infancy. Europe has installed more than 3,500 turbines capable of generating about 12,600 MW of power, according to a report by WindEurope. Five turbines capable of producing 30 MW off Rhode Island represent the extent of the U.S. industry.

Few are predicting a boom in wind jobs here anytime soon. Turbine manufacturing is likely to remain in countries like the United Kingdom and Germany for the foreseeable future, with North American developers expected to import blades from Europe.

“If you look to European experience, offshore wind has been deployed from a number of port facilities in the North Sea, which have been transformed from sleepy shipping ports to thriving industrial centers,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski. “That’s not going to happen here overnight. We do not have enough scale in the region.”

Still, offshore wind represents a return of sorts to New Bedford’s energy past. The city was one of America’s leading whaling ports during 19th century, when whale oil was used for lighting and lubrication. Herman Melville famously embarked from the port on a whaling odyssey that became the basis for “Moby-Dick.”

New Bedford today can boast some bright spots. Coffee shops, brew pubs and art galleries line the cobblestone streets in the city’s historic downtown. And while the fishing industry has declined across the Northeast, much of what remains has consolidated along New Bedford’s warren of wharfs.

In 2014 and 2015, New Bedford’s fleet hauled ashore more than $320 million worth of fish, more than any other American port, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scallops are responsible for much of that bounty, accounting for 80 percent of the value of New Bedford’s catch.

Big ideas fizzled. Will wind?

Still, the community has not escaped the maladies of other fishing towns. The groundfishing industry has been decimated in recent years. Local wages lag behind state benchmarks. And city officials must confront skepticism born from chasing past economic chimeras.

Plans for a casino and Olympic sailing, a proposal tied to Boston’s aborted bid to host the 2024 summer Olympic Games, have come and gone. This isn’t even the first time offshore wind has been tried.

The marine terminal was initially built to serve the ill-fated Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound. But when the two utilities with agreements to buy power from the 130-turbine wind farm pulled out in 2015, the terminal was widely panned as a waste of taxpayer funds.

Then there’s the tension between New Bedford’s old and emerging industries. The city joined a lawsuit last year against an offshore wind development along the New York coast, saying the project was sited in prime scalloping waters. The city’s argument: Wind is good, but turbines need to be properly sited in order to coexist with the fishing industry.

“I think the fishing industry is naturally skeptical. In the last several decades, changes in regulations have not gone their way,” said Anthes-Washburn, the port official. “I think there are concerns about what will happen when the windmills go up.”

But there is noticeable excitement in the city, as well. At No Problemo Taqueria, where diners were lining up for tacos and burritos one recent afternoon, a sign hung in the window showing five turbines and the word “YES.”

Some of the skepticism in the community is understandable, Nuno Pereira said as he manned the cash register.

“This area has been down in the dumps for a while,” he said. Wind, Pereira added, could help turn that around.

“I think it’s the future,” he said. “Progress just plods along.”

State and city officials are similarly optimistic that this time is different. Unlike Cape Wind, which would have been visible from the shore, developments proposed today are at least 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, where they cannot be seen by the naked eye.

The federal leasing process off the coast of Massachusetts was designed to address the concerns of fishermen, siting turbines outside prime fishing grounds, shipping channels and migratory paths.

Today’s turbines are also bigger, capable of producing 6 to 8 MW of power. That is up from the 3.6-MW turbines proposed by Cape Wind.

Costs are falling as a result. A University of Delaware study of Massachusetts’ wind proposals predicted that costs could fall from 16.2 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2023 to 10.8 cents per kWh in 2029, when accounting for transmission. Cape Wind, by contrast, projected costs of 24 cents per kWh.

New law requires wind

But by far the biggest change is the legislation passed in Massachusetts last year. It requires utilities to purchase 1,600 MW of offshore wind, enough to power a quarter of Massachusetts homes. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center estimates that the turbines will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2.4 million tons.

Just as importantly, the law effectively creates a market for offshore wind at a time when many of the aging coal, oil and nuclear units that underpinned New England’s electric grid are retiring (Climatewire, May 30).

“The appetite and interest is there, and it’s real,” said Thomas Brostrøm, who leads Dong’s North American operations.

The proposed wind area’s proximity to load centers like Boston; the relatively shallow waters of the continental shelf off Massachusetts, where ocean depths range from 90 to 180 feet; and consistent wind speeds averaging more than 20 mph make the region particularly attractive, he said.

“It looks similar to northwest Europe. That can be a benefit to a region like New England. Others led the way,” Brostrøm said. “I am bullish.”

The Danish-based company is one of three developers that have leased tracts of ocean south of Martha’s Vineyard and are competing to win the Massachusetts contract. Vineyard Wind, a partnership of Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and Deepwater Wind of Providence, R.I., are the other two companies.

The three candidates are expected to submit bids for a first round of development consisting of at least 400 MW later this year, though they are allowed to also submit alternative bids ranging from 200 to 800 MW. State regulators will sign off on a final contract by Nov. 1, 2018. Operations are expected to begin around 2020.

New Bedford officials’ immediate focus is positioning the city as an operations and maintenance hub for the industry.

They are busy developing land-use plans to accommodate the wind and fishing industries in a port that already hosts 700 working boats. Economic planners, meanwhile, are rushing to ensure that the region is prepared to serve wind companies when construction starts. Bristol Community College is offering a new academic program for students aspiring to become wind technicians. And the Massachusetts Maritime Academy is updating its vessel safety curriculum to serve the industry.

“We’re in Titusville in 1810 where they found oil. We’re at the cusp of creating a new base industry for the United States,” Vigeant said. “Part of the exciting thing for this area is we’re closest to the biggest and best place in North America. So it’s kind of a good deal.”

Twitter: @bstorrow Email: bstorrow@eenews.net

Original story here.

State official calls new business park at Whaling City Golf Course ‘a no-brainer’

Posted Jun 13, 2017 at 7:03 PM
Updated Jun 13, 2017 at 10:18 PM

NEW BEDFORD — Jay Ash, the state’s housing and economic development secretary, looked out Tuesday upon the driving range at Whaling City Golf Course. He squinted to see the farthest distance marker at 265 yards.

“How many tries to hit it that far?” the imposing secretary nearing 7-feet tall said to those touring the course.

All kidding aside, the conversation quickly transitioned from golf to business opportunity, which appeared more feasible than a 265-yard drive.

“This is as close to a no-brainer as you can get,” Ash said.

Last month, Mayor Jon Mitchell announced an agreement between the city and MassDevelopment to convert a 100-acre section of the golf course into a business park that could create at least 1,000 jobs.

Ash could think of only two other sites in the state that have as much job-growth potential, are within a city and are near highways, rail and an airport: A former Naval airbase in Weymouth and vacant space across from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

“When the mayor first talked about this, some of the members of the legislative delegation thought, ‘Boy, this would be an awesome opportunity,’” Ash said. “It fits right into what our program is.”

When Gov. Charlie Baker came into office in 2015, he looked to Ash to promote a new state program geared at finding “shovel-ready development sites” that can spark job growth.

“I’m not aware of anything this south and attached to a city,” Ash said. “We’re seeing a great deal of investments come back to cities. New Bedford has benefited from that.”

However, the secretary said a business park in the golf course is far from a done deal. Mitchell and New Bedford Economic Development Council’s executive director Derek Santos agreed.

At the city level, public discussions need to be hosted. Plans need to be revisited. Land needs to be surveyed.

At the state level, Ash said there’s a need to understand what’s in the ground, the topography and speak with the private sector.

“It doesn’t happen overnight, so let’s not kid ourselves,” Ash said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. You can’t get to develop a million square feet if you don’t have a site.”

From the golf course, Ash met with Mitchell to speak to investors and developers regarding other vacant space within the city.

Developers received informational packets and took tours of downtown and the mills in the South End.

“I think there’s tremendous opportunity in the city. It was really a great presentation,” said Rich Relich, who toured the city as part of Arch Community, a real estate developer.

Ash echoed those thoughts.

His job requires him to tour the state and at each function someone asks, “Where’s the next place to take off?”

“New Bedford is in that conversation,” Ash said.

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

Original story here.