The growth prospects for the offshore wind industry? How about a 3,000 percent increase by 2045?
That’s the forecast for growth by the International Renewable Energy Agency, which released a report that stated that technology improvements, along with the entry of the United States and India into the industry, will help drive the expansion.
It’s not just that New Bedford is located only half a day’s sale from the site of the new offshore wind farms that will be built just south of Martha’s Vineyard over the next decade, providing Massachusetts more than 10 percent of its power needs. And it’s not just that the Port of New Bedford is home to the nation’s only Marine Commerce Terminal built specifically for the needs of the new industry.
New Bedford is also home to thousands of workers who have experience working in a marine environment and access to training programs that are already in place or being developed, A partnership involving Bristol Community College, UMass Dartmouth and the Mass. Maritime Academy is studying the types of jobs and skills that will be required and will help lay the groundwork for an integrated training program that can serve the new industry…and provide hundreds of new, good-paying jobs.
An ideal workforce will have “have this blend of technical skills that you can do in a marine environment,” said Paul Vigeant, the vice president for workforce development at Bristol Community College and the director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center. “That differentiates New Bedford from any place in North America. . . .We have the individuals with the trade skills that can be applied in a marine environment.”
“It’s one thing to know how to fix an electrical machine. It’s another thing to be able to to fix it on top of a 35-story building in the middle of the ocean.”
By Alex Kuffner
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Oct 28, 2016 at 10:42 AM
“Worldwide, leaders are sensing and seeing the opportunity,” says Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “The completion of the Block Island Wind Farm is far more than just a ribbon-cutting – it is the dawn of an entirely new source of U.S. energy.”
WARWICK — Not so long ago, a race was on to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States.
Rewind five or six years and developers up and down the East Coast were competing against each other to reach a milestone known in their industry as “steel in the water.”
The pack included Bluewater Wind, which was touting a project off the Delaware coast, Fishermen’s Energy, with a pair of proposals in New Jersey, and, most notably, Energy Management, the Boston-based company that was moving ever closer to bringing to fruition the attention-grabbing Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound.
As anyone who follows the industry knows, Providence-based Deepwater Wind prevailed in the competition, this summer completing the Block Island Wind Farm, a five-turbine test project in Rhode Island waters. As for the other projects, some have fallen apart (Bluewater’s proposal), some appear permanently stalled (Cape Wind) and some are still crawling ahead (Fishermen’s Energy’s projects).
Undeterred by these decidedly mixed results, a new wave of companies, many with financing from overseas, has come forward with plans to build offshore wind farms off Massachusetts, Rhode Island and beyond — the mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, Oregon, California and Hawaii.
They want to tap into an energy source with huge potential — the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that total offshore wind capacity in American waters is double the amount of electricity the nation generated in 2015. And in the Deepwater project they have a model of how it can be done.
“Worldwide, leaders are sensing and seeing the opportunity here in the U.S.,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement. “The completion of the Block Island Wind Farm is far more than just a ribbon-cutting — it is the dawn of an entirely new source of U.S. energy.”
On a recent afternoon at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Warwick, some of the old and new developers were on hand at AWEA’s annual offshore wind conference to update regulators, suppliers, government officials and the hundreds of others in attendance on their projects.
Chief among the developers is still Deepwater — “the reason we are in Rhode Island today,” as one conference emcee said. The company has proven itself with the Block Island pilot project, which is expected to start generating enough power for 17,000 Rhode Island homes before Thanksgiving.
Deepwater is also planning a wind farm of up to 200 turbines in federal waters in Rhode Island Sound and is negotiating to sell power to the Long Island Power Authority from what would be the 90-megawatt first phase of the project.
Fishermen’s Energy isn’t far behind. CEO Chris Wisseman said the company is close to securing a power purchase agreement for its Atlantic City project that could put it on track for installation in 2018. And there is also US Wind, which is planning a project off Maryland that could start construction in 2020.
But, in a telling sign that the industry is maturing beyond a single project in Rhode Island, companies with connections to Europe — where 12,000 megawatts of offshore wind has been installed since the mid-1990s — have set their sights on U.S. waters.
Lars Pedersen, co-CEO of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, said his firm joined up with OffshoreMW on a project off Massachusetts because of “fundamentals” that include major cities near the coast with large energy needs and relatively shallow waters that are easier to build in.
Danielle Lane, of DONG Energy, which is also planning a wind farm off Massachusetts, said the potential for the industry in the United States could exceed what’s been achieved so far in Europe.
“It’s not just about one state,” she said. “There’s an opportunity on the whole Northeast coast and perhaps the Pacific as well. We’re potentially on the threshold of something great.”
Competition is critical to the growth of the industry, said Deepwater CEO Jeffrey Grybowski.
“The fact that they’re here and competing is a good thing for our market, a good thing for ratepayers,” he said. “With competition, price comes down. It’s the way we build a market that is real and sustainable and not just based on government subsidies.”
The Block Island project has been criticized for the high price of power it will charge utility National Grid — the starting price of 24.4 cents a kilowatt hour is far higher than the rates from fossil-fuel energy sources — and for state legislation that some critics say tilted the regulatory process in its favor.
But coal-fired generators and other older fossil-fuel power plants are shutting down, creating a need for alternatives. Paul Rich, managing director of US Wind, described this as a “pivotal moment” for offshore wind power. Grybowski agreed.
“We’re living through a moment in history where the entire energy sector is changing before our eyes,” he said.
He and the other developers hope that offshore wind will be part of the new mix.
“How many times in your lifetime can you create an industry?” said Alla Weinstein, founder of Trident Winds, which is proposing a wind farm off California.
Over the next decade, wind farms that will produce 1,600 MW — more than 10 percent of the electrical power Massachusetts’ now uses — will be built off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.
That is a lot of power, of course, but it is just the beginning. The U.S. departments of Energy and the Interior estimate that 86,000 MW of wind power can be developed off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by 2050. You’ve probably heard someone say that the waters off Martha’s Vineyard make the Bay State “the Saudi Arabia of wind’ because they produce some of the planet’s strongest and most reliable winds located in close proximity to big coastal population centers that run north from Washington, D.C., to New England.
Harvesting that much wind power — that’s more than 50 times the amount that will produced at the three leased sites off the Vineyard — will depend on a lot of things:
— prices will need to continue to come down, as they are predicted to do over the next decade. A study by the University of Delaware Special Initiative on Offshore Wind estimated the cost of offshore wind power could fall as much as 55 percent over the next decade due to improvements in technology and increased production efficiency.
— creation of a workforce with the training and skills to assemble, maintain and operate 200 or more turbines that will be built and installed on the three sites leased Bureau of Ocean Management to Deepwater Wind (which recently installed a 30 MW wind farm off Block Island), DONG Energy and Offshore Wind MW.
— a fluid project review and approval process that will enable developers to take best advantage of improved technology and data to reduce costs, ensure safety, and protect the marine environment.
But in the end, Massachusetts, New England and the entire country will benefit from the installation of clean, affordable, renewable wind power that will help us reduce greenhouse gases that have led to warming temperatures and rising sea levels, while creating a new industry that will help transform the economies of industrial port cities like New Bedford.
Elected leaders and government administrators get a lot of criticism for erecting obstacles as businesses look to expand and compete in new markets.
Not a lot of that kind of talk at the American Wind Energy Association’s fall conference in Rhode Island, which is happening today and tomorrow. Nearly 600 attendees have heard speaker after speaker discuss the close collaboration among the founders of the new offshore wind energy industry and the federal and state agency leaders and elected leaders in creating a new industry, which is ready to begin producing power at a small wind farm developed by Deepwater Wind off Block Island and which is looking to new markets along the East Coast.
(At right, Bristol Community College’s Anthony Ucci, associate vice president for academic affairs and a designer of the college’s 32-credit wind energy certificate program, was among the nearly 600 people at the AWEA conference’s first day).
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has been a leading environmental leader, and he cautioned that the new wind industry faces great competition from a fossil field industry that effectively receives a $200 billion subsidy each year and is fighting hard against renewable sources of energy that threaten that subsidy.
“That’s a pretty big headwind,” said Whitehouse said, urging a fair accounting of the actual cost of energy produced by fossil fuel.
And it was great to hear a New York State official, John Rhodes, president of that state’s energy research and development authority, speak in support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announced intention to require that half of the Empire State’s power production come from renewable sources, including offshore wind, by 2030.
It was enough to make a citizen of Massachusetts, which in August enacted legislation requiring the state’s utilities to purchase 1,600MW of electricity from wind farms to be built off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, proud and optimistic about the future of power production in the state.
Projects this big require partnership between private industry and federal and state government. That is happening hear, thanks largely to good will and common purpose on all sides to find new, environmentally friendly sources of power.
NEW BEDFORD is not only the home to the only Marine Commerce Terminal on the East Coast built to handle the massive components of offshore wind turbines. It is also home to the top-grossing fishing port in the United States.
So the offshore wind industry that will be built off our coast over the next decade when 1,600 MW of power-producing turbines are erected 15 to 25 miles off Martha’s Vineyard will need to co-exist with New Bedford’s hugely important commercial fishing industry, which produced more than $329 million in landings last year. More than 90 percent of that total comes from scallops, which in recent years have been selling at nearly record high prices in an expanding global market. In addition, some 4,400 people work in the commercial fishing industry, which generates more than $1 billion in economic activity.
Not all of those are fishermen, who are limited in the number of days they can work each year by federal regulations that strictly limit how much fishermen, especially draggers and trawlers, can catch. It’s possible for the offshore wind industry to employ many of those workers when they are not at sea and are looking to supplement their earnings and benefits.
John Quinn, former state representative from Dartmouth, is the chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council, which looks out for the needs of fish, fishermen and fishing communities like New Bedford. He believes that offshore wind can coexist with commercial fishing in New Bedford — especially if offshore wind supporters can demonstrate clear benefits for those working in the fishing industry and can demonstrate that offshore wind activities will not harm fish or fishermen.
There’s a good interview with Mayor Jon Mitchell in CommonWealth magazine’s fall issue about the resurgence of New Bedford, and offshore wind was a big part of the conversation.
Given that many in Massachusetts equate offshore wind with the mothballed Cape Wind project, the focus by CommonWealth, an influential issue-centered publication of the public policy think tank MassINC, on offshore wind as part of the New Bedford turnaround story constitutes a recognition that the industry has become an important piece of the Massachusetts energy and economic development future.
Gov. Charlie Baker in August signed an energy bill into law that will require public utilities over the next decade to buy 1,600 MW of power — that’s about 10 percent of the state’s entire use — from offshore wind farms being built 15 to 25 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. And the three energy development firms that will bid to supply that power in a series of auctions that will award contracts based on lowest cost for power produced have agreed to use the $113 million New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal to serve the new industry. Meanwhile, Bristol Community College’s vice president for workforce development, Paul Vigeant (who also serves as director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center), will work with experts at UMass Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy to assess workforce needs and assets for the new industry.
Mayor Mitchell started out like a lot of people, with the sense that the offshore wind industry was Cape Wind and nothing else. But like others, he has learned about offshore wind and recognizes its great potential for New England, for Massachusetts…and for New Bedford. Here’s what he said:
“Early on in my administration, I, like a lot of other people, just associated the offshore wind industry with Cape Wind. That was the thing that was in the news, and I didn’t know much about the growth of the industry in northern Europe. But as I started to dig into it, it made all the sense in the world to put eggs into that basket because of the geographic advantages we have. I distinctly remember reading a Department of Energy report that said 25 percent of the nation’s wind reserves lie in the area south of Martha’s Vineyard going down the Eastern Seaboard. We’re the closest industrial seaport. We’ve got the deep water harbor. Now we have the marine terminal that is perfect for the wind industry because of its load capacity. And we have this seafaring workforce that is second to none in America. Offshore wind is a way to diversify our industry mix on the waterfront.”
New Bedford has emerged as the likely launching point for the next U.S. energy industry.
Deepwater Wind, one of the three firms expected to bid for the right to develop the first industrial-scale offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, will open an office in New Bedford. DONG Energy and Offshore MW, the other two likely bidders, have joined Deepwater Wind in signing an agreement to use the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal for the buildout of the new industry.
Ed Anthes-Washburn, the director of the Port of New Bedford, believes this is just the beginning for New Bedford as the offshore industry expands over the next decade and beyond.
The port is “uniquely positioned as the center of offshore wind in the United States…Our workforce has always been focused on marine (service) and fabrication and doing work out on the oceans,” he says of New Bedford, home to the most profitable commercial fishing port in the U.S. “Our biggest strength is our people. Our workforce is well-suited for the (offshore wind) industry.”
To that end, Washburn and others are striving to make sure that the needs of those commercial fishermen and the workings of the fishing port are accounted for. He said one of the Harbor Development Commission’s most important roles will be to mediate any potential disagreements and that one of his main goals is to “make sure the commercial fishing industry and the offshore wind industry are working together for the benefit of each.”
As with the real estate business, the Port of New Bedford’s success also is about location, location, location. He puts it in historical terms.
“The same reason that whaling made sense in New Bedford is that we’re closest to the resource, so what we want to do now is use that advantage with smart infrastructure and land-use planning and turn it into an industry that is …an economic driver” for the city.
Hear what else Anthes-Washburn has to say about the future of this exciting new industry and what it will mean to New Bedford and the surrounding communities.
It was a big summer for the offshore wind industry and the Port of New Bedford. We asked Paul Vigeant, managing director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center, to put the summer’s events into perspective and look ahead to what New Bedford can expect as the industry develops.
Let’s start by talking about recent events related to offshore wind, starting with the legislation passed in June.
The passage of the diversified energy legislation by the Massachusetts Legislature, [which was signed by] Gov. Charlie Baker, fundamentally starts the offshore wind industry in the United States. It creates a market an
d it requires the utility companies to purchase wind energy-generated electricity. That legislation essentially starts the offshore wind industry in the United States.
Soon after, Gov. Baker, other high-level state officials and three offshore wind developers were in New Bedford. Why were they here?
Within a [month] of signing the legislation that creates the offshore wind industry in the United States, there was a significant event in New Bedford. All three of the lease holders who have the right to develop the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area signed a letter of intent with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which owns the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, which is purpose-built for the deployment of offshore wind devices. They collectively agreed to put up $5.7 million for the right to the terminal if they are selected as the provider of tha
t offshore wind energy.
Less than a week later, the federal government made headlines with offshore wind. Could you talk about that?
Good things happen in threes. So the third big announcement was a joint announcement by Secretary [Sally] Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and Secretary Ernie Muniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy. They jointly announced the national offshore wind strategy and they chose to make that announcement here in Massachusetts, which in and of itself shows the importance of this issue on a national scale….
In that event, it was remarkable how many times the Port of New Bedford was referenced not only by Mayor Mitchell, who did a good job to promote New Bedford, as he always does…. But also, Secretary Muniz mentioned it. Steve Pike, who is the head of the Clean Energy Center here in Massachusetts, mentioned New Bedford, the port and the infrastructure. Secretary Jewel mentioned it. Sen.
Markey mentioned it.
It was very encouraging to be in the audience and hear so many national leaders talk about not only this national offshore wind strategy, which the United States finally has, but to hear them say how prominent a role New Bedford will pay in this new and emerging industry. It was a terrific day for New Bedford.
What does this all mean for for New Bedford?
You’re already seeing a number of roles for New Bedford in the offshore wind industry. Not long after the announcement by the governor that the game is on [by signing new energy legislation] you started to see research vessels using New Bedford and they will be using New Bedford for the next 12 to 18 months to supply their boats…. They will need fuel. They will need provisioning. So the first pop for New Bedford all be survey vessels, research vessels using the Marine Commerce Terminal.
What is the biggest potential for New Bedford with offshore wind?
The real big play for offshore wind is called operation and maintenance. Once you build and install these towers, they’re going to be there for 20 to 30 years so you need routine maintenance every day on these towers. That represents the highest number of jobs in any of the phases [of offshore wind development]. It represents the longest number of years committed to that number of jobs in any of the phases, whether it is assembly, deployment or construction. We are very well positioned to be the operations and maintenance center for offshore wind.
Why are we well positioned as an operations and maintenance center for offshore wind?
Having the right workforce, the right skill sets, the right workers with the right training is so important for offshore wind. New Bedford has a competitive advantage in that it has partnered with Bristol Community College, which for over a decade has been offering as part of one of its engineering program a wind energy certificate. We’re very serious at BCC about renewable energy and reducing the carbon footprint. We just built a zero impact building and we provide. training that will lead you to an associate’s degree with a concentration in wind energy.
How does offshore wind relate to the fishing industry?
Another important aspect about the training required for the offshore wind industry is [having] a blend of technical skills that can you do in a marine environment. And that differentiates New Bedford over anywhere in North America.… Because of our robust seafood industry and our fishing industry…we have the individuals who have the trade skills that are applied in the marine environment. It’s one thing, for instance, to know how to fix an electrical machine. It’s another thing to be able to fix it on top of a 35-story building in the middle of the ocean.
So you envision that individuals who now work in commercial fishing will be employed by offshore wind?
The number of days that fishermen are now limited to makes them available to augment their wages by working as operations and maintenance technicians in the offshore wind industry. So i envision a day when fish harvesters work a full schedule harvesting scallops and other fish products, and when the boats are in port because they’ve exhausted their licensing days, those people can find jobs in a minute working in the offshore wind industry as production technicians and electronic technicians.
How will these jobs pay?
The production jobs in offshore wind are very stable jobs, but they are also very well paying jobs, [which carry benefits]. I think you’re looking at entry level production wages at the $18 to $20 per hour range, which is for New Bedford a very attractive and livable wage.