South Terminal budget grows 10 percent to accommodate larger ships

By Simón Rios
Posted Nov. 28, 2014 @ 2:01 am


(Photo Credit: Peter Pereira, The Standard-Times)

In a move officials say will bring more wind turbine activity to the city, the budget for South Terminal was increased by $10 million to widen the channel and accommodate larger vessels.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center said changes in the schedule of the Cape Wind project, America’s future first offshore wind farm, mean New Bedford will now receive all of the components needed to erect wind turbines in the ocean.

From its original width of 225 feet, South Terminal’s channel is now 300 feet wide.

Mass CEC’s Bill White, who is overseeing construction of the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, said Cape Wind’s schedule was “pushed back,” giving developers more time to work.

“When we started the project in April 2013, it was envisioned that Cape Wind was going to be on a shorter time frame.”

Cape Wind officials could not be reached the day before Thanksgiving. But White said Cape Wind will now receive components for the turbines’ foundations, which will arrive on ships that require greater clearance.

Originally planned to accommodate vessels like the 469 foot long BBC Mississippi, the newly dredged and blasted channel will now be able to accommodate a 553 foot long ship, which transports monopile foundations and transition pieces.

Those components were previously to be shipped to Quonset Point in North Kingston, RI, White said. With that in mind, the channel for South Terminal was built to 225 feet — 75 feet short of what would ultimately be required.

Mass CEC portends to be the epicenter of the offshore wind industry — but the original blueprint didn’t accommodate all the respective vessels that fit through the hurricane barrier. But White said the design was done in consultation with “European experts” and the Army Corps of Engineers, and Quonset was seen as the destination for the larger ships.

The Quonset Development Corp. voted in July to approve a lease option with Cape Wind for two parcels of land at the Quonset Business Park in North Kingston. David Preston, spokesperson for QDC, said Cape Wind has an option on a parcel in the Quonset Business Park, but didn’t give further details, saying, “we look forward to seeing with the final disposition is.”

Mass CEC got the green light for the widening from MassDOT and the state Energy and Environmental Affairs office.

The project resulted in additional cleanup of 30,000 cubic yards of PCB contaminated sediments, Mass CEC said.

State Rep. Bill Straus, D-Mattapoisett, who chairs the transportation committee, applauded the expansion of the channel for reasons beyond wind turbines.

“To me, it makes it all that more valuable of an asset,” Straus said.

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South terminal injects millions into local economy

By Simón Rios
Posted Nov. 27, 2014 @ 2:01 amnbcmt

With its healthy appetite for goods and services, the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford has spent millions at local businesses since breaking ground.

“It’s definitely had a positive impact on the harbor, there’s no question about that,” said John Liarikos, owner of Sea Fuels Marine Services, one of the companies that has benefited most from South Terminal in terms of overall sales.

Liarikos said the $3.5 million in business he’s done has offset some of the losses suffered from the decline of the groundfishing industry. And he was optimistic about the future of the terminal and all the commerce it could bring.

“I’m looking five or 10 years down the road at once this marine terminal is completed,” he said.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the quasi-state agency which oversees the $113 million project, recently put out a spreadsheet listing the local suppliers that general contractor Cashman-Weeks has done business with.

Of Cashman-Weeks’ $54 million portion of the budget, $16 million has been spent on local suppliers, or 64 percent of the total amount spent on suppliers.

The spreadsheet lists 66 companies from Fall River, Taunton and the surrounding suburbs, though New Bedford companies did the lion’s share of business.

Though contractors can’t be obliged to use local suppliers, Bill White, Mass CEC’s project director for the South Terminal, said the city encouraged it by preparing a list of local suppliers “that we fed to” Cashman-Weeks.

At the top of the list is Raymond Piling Products, a Taunton steel distributor that to date has done $6 million in business at South Terminal. Sales representative Joe Aliberti said, “Not to downplay it, but it’s just another one of … many projects.”

Right on the doorstep of South Terminal is Shuster Corp., a bearing manufacturer that has reaped the profits of its proximity. Miles Carroll, a sales manager at the company, characterized the $200,000 in business as a “shot in the arm” for the company.

“They’re not a captive audience but they’re damn close,” Carroll said.

“They’ve certainly been very good to us.”

Shuster has supplied South Terminal construction contractors Cashman-Weeks with a range of products, Carroll said, including hydraulics materials, motors, pumps, pump repair, filters and lubricants. Unlike companies that expect to profit from the commerce that takes place once the terminal is complete, Carroll said he doesn’t anticipate that it will be a real steady type of income.

White said the numbers are not a full accounting but are “pretty well final.”

An additional “bucket” of money for the project — set aside for permitting, engineering, land acquisition, environmental mitigation and other costs — amounts to $20 million, Mass CEC said. Of that bucket, $14 million has gone to local firms.

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Department of Interior Announces January Auction Date for Martha’s Vineyard Wind Energy Leases

Article by: Sahir Surmeli and Jordan M. Collins

Posted on: Monday, December 1, 2014


Massachusetts Wind Energy Area

On November 24th, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that it would be auctioning off four commercial leases for the Wind Energy Area (WEA) south of Martha’s Vineyard on January 29th. The area to be leased, which is identical to the area proposed in the Proposed Sale Notice published this past June, encompasses more than 1,160 square miles of open water – a tract larger than the state of Rhode Island. The project is slated to become the largest off-shore wind tract in federal waters in the United States.

If and when it is fully developed, the Martha’s Vineyard WEA has the potential to increase wind generation capacity by four or five Gigawatts (GW). According to the BOEM, which framed the announcement as part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing efforts to curb carbon pollution and mitigate climate change, a fully-developed Vineyard WEA would support 800 turbines and produce enough energy to power 1.4 million homes in the United States. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the auction will “triple the amount of federal offshore acreage available for commercial-scale wind energy projects,” making it the largest competitive wind energy lease sale to date.

Several advocacy organizations, including the New England Fishery Management Council and the Massachusetts Audubon Society, had previously voiced concerns about possible harm to aquatic and aviary life, but the Bureau’s most recent Environmental Assessment (EA) concluded that “reasonably foreseeable environmental effects associated with the commercial wind lease issuance and related activities would not significantly impact the environment.”

Twelve companies are qualified to bid for the four leases, including Deepwater Wind New England, EDF Renewable Development, Energy Management, Fishermen’s Energy, Green Sail Energy, IBERDROLA RENEWABLES, NRG Bluewater Wind Massachusetts, OffshoreMW, RES America Developments, Sea Breeze Energy, US Mainstream Renewable Power (Offshore) and U.S. Wind.

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Cape Wind signs lease agreement with South Terminal; will file to modify plan


NEW BEDFORD — Cape Wind has signed a lease agreement with the state to use South Terminal for the staging and construction of its 130-turbine offshore wind project, marking a significant milestone in the city’s efforts to become a hub for the offshore wind industry.

The offshore wind developer is expected to officially announce the news Friday at 11 a.m. with Gov.Deval Patrick at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown.

“Cape Wind is going to be built out of New Bedford, not Rhode Island, that’s the bottom line,” Patrick told The Standard-Times Thursday.

Cape Wind will file paperwork with the federal government early next week to modify its Construction and Operations Plan with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in order to deploy the wind project from New Bedford, company officials said.

Cape Wind had previously signed lease options with both South Terminal, now formally called the Massachusetts Marine Commerce Terminal, and Rhode Island’s Quonset Point.

Mayor Jon Mitchell called the step “a historic moment” in the city’s efforts to bring a new age of economic development by aligning itself with the offshore wind industry.

“New Bedford has been preparing itself for the launch of this industry for a long time and we are more ready than any port in America to become a center of the offshore wind industry,” he said. “Our approach has always been what’s in the city’s long-term best interests, that’s why offshore wind has been the subject of our relentless focus.”

Later Thursday night, Mitchell — who said he was not invited to speak at today’s announcement — also said he is unable to attend.

Sen. Mark Montigny, meanwhile, took exception to the exclusion of New Bedford in the name change. “I’ll be looking at drafting a bill ASAP” to restore the city’s name to the terminal, Montigny said Thursday night.

The name change also sparked discussion at the New Bedford City Council Thursday night where councilors unanimously approved a motion to “strenuously object” to the change and restore the terminal to “its rightful” name as the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal.

For his part, Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said the lease agreement shows that he is confident South Terminal, which is still under construction, will be completed in time for Cape Wind to begin using it in January.

“We believe that we will be the first of many offshore wind projects to deploy out of this facility,” Gordon said. “We know there are a lot of skilled tradesmen in the region and people who are ready to roll up their sleeves and work with us.”

South Terminal, which is three months away from completion, was designed by Massachusetts Clean Energy Center specifically to accommodate the weight of offshore wind turbines and the cranes required to put them together. The facility on average will be able to support 4,100 pounds per square foot and up to 20,485 pounds per square foot in certain places. It is being built on an accelerated schedule in order to accommodate Cape Wind’s timeline.

Cape Wind will pay a total of $4.5 million in rent to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which owns the 28-acre facility, for two years. During that time, Cape Wind will be the only operator of the facility and the terms of lease allow for two one-year extensions.

Cape Wind has said that the assembly, staging and ocean construction of the project will create 600 to 1,000 jobs. Once in operation, the project is expected to employ 150 people, at least 50 of whom are expected to be based in Falmouth to do maintenance on the Nantucket Sound turbines.

The lease agreement is significant not just for Cape Wind but for New Bedford and the commonwealth’s future involvement in the offshore wind industry. City officials have long stated that being the first port to stage an offshore wind farm will help the city to attract future projects and industry manufacturers.

“This is a great day for Cape Wind, the offshore wind industry, and especially for the City of New Bedford,” New Bedford Wind Energy Center Director Matthew Morrissey said.

Patrick agreed.

“This will be the nation’s first offshore wind farm and that’s important economically from an environmental perspective and from a symbolic perspective,” he said. “There is a first-mover’s advantage.”

Follow Ariel Wittenberg on Twitter @awittenberg_SCT

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Winds of change: Coal advocate Rep. Haddad now ally for offshore wind

By Ariel Wittenberg
September 14, 2014 12:00 AM

Photo Credits: John Sladewski, The Standard-Times

Photo Credits: John Sladewski, The Standard-Times

NEW BEDFORD — It was just after midnight on Aug. 1 when Wind Energy Center Director Matthew Morrissey received the text: “You’re all set.”

The short message signaled the defeat of a renewable energy bill in the House of Representatives that had threatened to dash New Bedford’s offshore wind hopes by giving utilities an incentive to sign 30-year long contracts with Canadian hydropower, potentially pushing offshore wind, and New Bedford’s economic future, out of the market.

The text was sent by offshore wind’s new and unlikely ally in the Statehouse: Rep. Patricia Haddad of Somerset.

That’s right; Somerset, of Brayton Point coal-fired power plant fame.

But with the plant set to go offline in 2017, taking more than 30 percent of Somerset’s tax revenue with it, Haddad has done an energy-policy 180, aligning herself with offshore wind interests in the hope that whatever economic development the industry brings to New Bedford will spread to Somerset.

That turnaround is no fluke, the result of concentrated lobbying on the part of New Bedford’s delegation. Haddad is a powerful ally to have, serving as Speaker Pro Tempore, second only to the Speaker in the House hierarchy.

It’s that role that brought her to the rostrum for the final hours of the House’s summer session when allies of the renewable energy bill, which never made it out of committee, were trying to tack it onto other pieces of legislation to sneak it through.

Haddad gaveled the amendments down, blocking the initiative from becoming law.

“We breathed a sigh of relief when we received that final text message from Rep. Haddad on the rostrum telling us ‘You are all set,'” Morrissey said.


Haddad’s embrace of New Bedford’s offshore wind dreams may seem counter-intuitive because the district she represents has always been about coal. Until 2011, the Fifth Bristol District was home to not one, but two coal-fired power plants. Even after the smaller Somerset Station closed in 2011, the Brayton Point plant still paid $13 million in taxes annually and employed some 240 people.

“The coal was very important to us,” said former Sen. Joan Menard, D-Somerset, who held Haddad’s position before running for state Senate in 2001. “It provided the tax base of the town; the people that worked in the plants either lived in Somerset, Swansea or Fall River. It was everything we represented.”

Though Haddad considered herself an environmentalist when she ran for office in 2001, she said she soon realized she needed to become more pragmatic. She learned to love coal.

“We needed the coal,” she said. “I know people don’t like coal from an environmental point of view, but from a pragmatic point of view, we needed it.”

Haddad held her position even as public opinion outside her district came to despise the fuel, and Brayton Point, as dirty. The plant often topped a “Dirty Dozen” list of the biggest polluters in New England. In 2007, the EPA instructed Brayton Point to build two cooling towers after it found the plant’s release of hot water into Mount Hope Bay responsible for fish kills there.

At the time, Haddad told the Fall River Herald News that she didn’t think the plant was “solely responsible for the decline in the fish population.”

This month, she told The Standard-Times that although she still thinks other factors contributed to the fish kills, she now sees the cooling towers as necessary to make the plant “a good neighbor.”

“We had to do anything we could to keep the lights on,” she said.
In October 2013, Brayton Point’s owner, Equipower, had other plans. The company decided to close the plant by June 2017 after failing to reach a price agreement with ISO-New England, which runs the region’s power grid.

By 2017, Somerset’s largest tax payer will be gone.


It’s not by mistake that Haddad settled on offshore wind as the solution to Somerset’s coal problems. It was the result of a concerted lobbying effort on the part of New Bedford city officials and legislators.

Haddad said when she heard the plant was closing she began frantically searching for options to bring revenue to the town.

Could they turn the plant’s blueprint into a solar farm? Into a wind farm? Could the state research a way to generate energy from the tide of the Taunton River?

“I lay in bed at night and thought about what to do,” Haddad said.

Officials in New Bedford came up with the solution.

Brayton Point is home to a high-capacity transmission connector that offshore wind developers would need to bring the power produced offshore into the electric grid. These cables are not common, and the one located in Somerset is in a convenient spot for wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

New Bedford didn’t approach Haddad about the idea until a renewable energy bill introduced to the House in February was sent to the Ways and Means Committee.

Because offshore wind farms require large investments up front and take eight years to construct, developers often use power purchase agreements with utilities as a way to attract investors and show them that they will see good returns if they are willing to wait.

The bill before the Committee would have required utilities to enter into 20- to 30 year-long contracts with renewable energy generators. Hydro-power generated in dams would, for the first time in state legislation, count as “renewable,” and officials worried that would open the door for projects already underway in Canada to eat up the contracts and push offshore wind developers out of the market.

That jeopardized New Bedford’s vision of spurring economic development by becoming a hub of America’s burgeoning offshore wind industry.

The city needed allies to defeat the bill in the Statehouse, and lobbied Haddad to become one of them.

“She obviously has a very important position in the Statehouse and Somerset certainly stands to benefit from the success of offshore wind because of the cable,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said.

The local delegation sent Rep. Antonio Cabral, D-New Bedford, to approach Haddad.

“We knew if we could get her to be active, not just supportive, it would help us either amend the bill or defeat it, as we did,” Cabral said.

Cabral wasn’t the first to approach Haddad in opposition to the bill; colleges and universities worried about electricity prices also had, along with small electricity generators. But he was the first to bring her a feasible plan to help Somerset’s economy.

“I was at the point where I was feeling like a little kid, jumping up and down, waving my arms screaming for people to pay attention to our financial situation in Somerset, and in they walked with an answer,” Haddad said.

Menard put Haddad in contact with Morrissey at the Wind Energy Center and the two set to work trying to amend the bill to include a carve-out for offshore wind or, if that failed, to kill the bill entirely.

“Through just a few short meetings, it crystallized for her that this was a regional economic opportunity being put at risk,” Morrissey said. “Having her in the leadership of the House made our New Bedford delegation particularly potent.”

Together they lobbied the Ways and Means Committee and the bill never made it out of committee.

Haddad’s newfound affection for offshore wind caught the attention of the National Wildlife Federation.

In mid-July, the organization released a report about which states were doing the best to promote offshore wind. The report highlighted New Bedford’s efforts to be at the forefront of the industry. NWF chose Mitchell and Haddad to speak on the city’s behalf on a conference call about the report.

“For someone like her, who is so known for being a staunch advocate for coal for many years, for her to make such a strong call for offshore wind is very powerful,” said Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at NWF

Bowes said she remembered being surprised by “how genuine” Haddad’s comments were on the call.

“I was really inspired,” Bowes said. “Before we went on the call, I knew she was inclined to be supportive for offshore wind and had accepted our invitation, but when she started talking you could tell she was ready to fight for the issue.”

That fight came down to the wire. While the bill itself had stalled in committee, its supporters were determined to attach it to another piece of legislation to sneak it through on the last day of the House’s summer session.

Haddad was on the rostrum holding the gavel that day, and prevented two amendments from going through before the session ended, signaling the bill’s defeat.

“It was shocking to people because she had been so pro-coal for years,” said Shanna Cleveland of the Conservation Law Foundation, which opposed the renewable energy bill and closely followed its progress through the state Legislature.

“Given her personal experience facing down the problems that arise when our energy past confronts our energy future, it was a decisive turning point when she staked out offshore wind as key to Massachusetts’ economic future,” Cleveland said.

Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, was responsible for setting up opposition to the bill in the Senate, and watched Haddad do the same in the House. He said he had been ready to filibuster the bill if it got to the Senate, but Haddad, acting as goal keeper, didn’t let it get to that.

“It was an interesting lesson in power play,” he said.


With that bill defeated, Haddad isn’t giving up. The issues of energy diversification that the bill sought to rectify are not going away.

This time, Haddad and the New Bedford delegation will take the offensive, crafting their own bill with offshore wind interests in mind.

“I want the jobs,” she said. “I want the jobs of SouthCoast to be part of the process.”

In the meantime, she has been keeping a watchful eye on New Bedford legislators — and their political opponents — to make sure they stay on message and do not endanger the process. Two weeks ago, Alan Garcia, a candidate for state representative in the 9th Bristol District, said in an interview on YouTube with The Baystate Exchange that he did not believe the state should support power purchase agreements.

“My concern is I think that if we require these utility companies to purchase this, we will be in a sense monopolizing and taking away the price competitiveness,” he said in the clip, which has 73 views. “I love the fact that they want to do renewable energy but it has to be affordable to the consumer.”

Haddad and Morrissey both saw the video. She suggested Morrissey write a letter to Garcia educating him about offshore wind issues to correct his “disturbing opinions,” and Morrissey agreed.

Garcia initially said he would sit down with Morrissey to discuss the issue, but now, having lost his primary election, said he would not.

“At this point, I’m not sure if I can be of any help to them,” Garcia said. He said his comments stemmed from “some online research” about the industry and that he had not anticipated the reaction he received.

Later, Haddad said the incident showed “how constantly vigilant” the New Bedford delegation had to be about support for offshore wind.

“If a candidate does not educate themselves about an opportunity of this magnitude, I have to step in,” she said. “Negative public proclamations about what we are trying to do undermine our position.”

Haddad said she still hasn’t given up on coal, or “energy diversity,” as she has come to call it since supporting offshore wind. If Equipower came to her tomorrow and said they would keep Brayton Point running beyond its 2017 expiration date, “Of course I’d have to be with them,” she said.

But she said she also realizes that there must be short and long-term solutions to providing SouthCoast jobs and new sources of energy, and she sees offshore wind as a way to help in the long term.

“Real independence from fossil fuels is not right around the corner whether you want to believe it or not,” she said. “But I am very willing to lead the evolution.”

Follow Ariel Wittenberg on Twitter @awittenberg_SCT

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Offshore Wind Turbines Could Tame Hurricanes

Sept. 28, 2014 4:56 p.m. ET

Arrays of offshore wind turbines might have cut Sandy's peak winds in the New York area by two-thirds. AFP/GETTY IMAGES


Could an armada of giant windmills reduce damage from the next big hurricane?

A study by scientists at Stanford University and the University of Delaware suggests that U.S. coastal cities could be spared by installing tens of thousands of gigantic wind turbines offshore in arrays up to 20 miles long. The scientists say the turbines, as high as a football field is long, would suck much of the energy out of storms and pay for themselves with the clean electrical power they produce.

The idea is that if you take away enough wind speed and reduce the height of the waves, you will break the feedback loop that makes hurricanes more powerful. Computer models in the study show that the giant turbines—with blades more than 400 feet across, and hubs nearly 330 feet above the water—would cut the wind’s force by about half.

During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to cite an example from the study, having 78,000 turbines off the coast of New Orleans would have reduced the storm surge that swamped the city by as much as 71% and cut wind speeds by as much as 57%.

Still, while the physics may be sound, the economics may be less so: The study’s authors propose 121,000 7.5-megawatt turbines or 181,000 five-megawatt turbines along the U.S. coastline, for total costs of $2.7 trillion, or about $77 billion a year over 35 years. As an extra incentive, the turbines not only would offer hurricane protection but would produce 20% of all U.S. power by 2050.

But there are now only about 1,900 offshore turbines in the top 25 offshore wind farms in the world, and none in the U.S.


At CIT Group Inc., a New York City-based provider of commercial lending and leasing services, Mike Lorusso, managing director of the company’s energy group, says it would be impossible to secure financing for a project of such immensity. Siting and erecting 120,000 towers near coasts and shipping lanes, he says, would be an insurmountable hurdle.

Mark Z. Jacobson, a co-author of the wind-turbine study, is aware that the idea faces, well, headwinds. But he argues it is the best option available.

“The alternative is sea walls, which could cost $30 billion for one city alone,” says Prof. Jacobson, who teaches at Stanford University and directs the university’s atmosphere and energy program. “But sea walls don’t reduce storm surge, they don’t reduce wind speed, and they don’t pay for themselves,” Prof. Jacobson says.

New York City plans to spend $20 billion over 10 years to improve the city’s ability to withstand another major storm, according to the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget.

Prof. Jacobson says that New York should devote some of that money to seeding private investment in a 20-mile array of wind turbines off Sandy Hook, N.J., near the entrance to New York Harbor.

He estimates that this array alone would cost about $210 billion, but says it could be repaid within 20 to 30 years by selling the electricity that the turbines generate.

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Offshore Winds Soon to Power Cape Cod


09/29/2014 10:59 am EDT

European Wind Farm Photo Courtesy: Siemens and Cape Wind

European Wind Farm Photo Courtesy: Siemens and Cape Wind

Cape Wind, North America’s first offshore wind farm, will soon install 130 windmills off the coast of southeastern Massachusetts to provide roughly three-quarters of the electricity required by the residents of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

The landmark project has been fourteen years in the making. By comparison, 224 offshore wind turbines were fully grid connected in Europe in just the first six months of 2014. European waters are home to 64 operational offshore wind farms in an industry that employs 58,000 people. European Wind Energy Association CEO Justin Wilkes confirms that offshore wind “remains the fastest growing power sector in Europe” and Germany’s ambitious offshore wind initiatives have led many experts to conclude that doubling worldwide renewable energy generation by 2030 is realistic.

By 2020, fifty percent of Americans are expected to live directly by the coast. Along the northeast shoreline, where urban populations are dense, America benefits from some of the greatest offshore wind reserves in the world. From New England to North Carolina, the technology required to convert the wind to clean electricity, and then deliver the power to coastal residents, is becoming increasingly scalable.

Map Source: National Wildlife Federation Map Data: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2012); U.S. Energy Information Administration electricity sales data (2014); U.S. Census Bureau Population Data (2011)

Map Source: National Wildlife Federation Map Data: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2012); U.S. Energy Information Administration electricity sales data (2014); U.S. Census Bureau Population Data (2011)

So, with such an abundance of inexhaustible, clean power just waiting to be tapped, why has the U.S. delayed its development of offshore wind power?

A Generation of Preparation

In 2001, when I first read of Cape Wind’s plans to harness the brisk winds of Nantucket Sound to supply 360 megawatts (MW) of electricity to Cape Cod residents, my son, now in his freshman year of college, was just beginning preschool in Dallas. It was when young children were still invited by pilots to sit in the cockpit of a commercial plane and pose for photos wearing the Captain’s hat, an oversized headset, and the airline’s logo pin. Yes, it was before the national heartbreak of 9-11, before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and before the subsequent Great Recession of 2008. It was before NASA scientists began publicly reporting the rapid melt of the polar ice caps and before the Pentagon concluded that climate change presented a threat at least as great as terrorism. It was before 100,000 gallons of bunker oil spilled in Cape Cod’s Buzzard’s Bay and it was before BP’s catastrophic malfeasance in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s been a long time

It’s fairly well known that through Cape Wind’s long and determined journey, well-funded fossil fuel interests have challenged the project with schemes to dismiss the project’s integrity and to contrive any number of weightless objections to the America’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm. For example, among the opposition’s many failed efforts to discredit Cape Wind, when much of Europe was busy building the clean energy infrastructure that would sustain their economies long-term, was a feigned concern for migratory birds. The Mass Audubon Society surprised the opposition by publicly supporting Cape Wind and cited sources of bird deaths (including the burning of coal) far more controversial than windmills. Nevertheless, the opposition to Cape Wind continued to confound the public’s understanding of clean energy’s mighty potential by using many millions of dollars in “dark money” donations to cast doubt on all forms of renewable energy and on the science of climate change. Why? Because with access to the wind and the sun, and the technologies required to convert them to clean, emissions-free energy, who needs fossil fuels?

Image Courtesy of U.S. News & World Report

Image Courtesy of U.S. News & World Report

Since Cape Wind’s detractors are motivated by profits, rather than an affinity for wildlife or the long-term sustainability of the planet, it’s hard to reconcile how spinning sea breezes into clean electricity could actually become as contentious of an issue as it has here in the U.S. over the past fourteen years. But here’s the key: project opponents have long understood that human nature resists change, even when its clearly articulated benefits outweigh its perceived risks.

Behavioral change therapist Carol Kinsey Goman writes in Forbes that human beings avoid change primarily because the challenge to process new information stimulates our “flight or fight” response. In other words, we simply prefer what is familiar because it’s less stressful than having to analyze new information, even if that information delivers a simple and persuasive message.

Cape Wind’s well-funded detractors have designed, funded, and deployed strategic campaigns designed to prey on this innate, hard-wired aspect of human nature. Their message has been simple–harnessing the wind to make clean electricity is just “too complicated and/or too unreliable.” What they don’t reveal, of course, is just how popular and successful wind power has been abroad. An International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report estimates that as of 2013, there are currently over 800,000 jobs in the wind industry worldwide.

Image: IRENA 2014 Annual Review

Image: IRENA 2014 Annual Review

The well-honed and oft repeated bite-size negative messaging of wind power “doubters” (a.k.a. the fossil fuel lobby) has played well to our collective desire for predictability and consistency–that is, until recently.

As the price of renewable energy has dropped precipitously over the past fourteen years, wind power has enjoyed increasing public backing. Just last month, energy expert and writer Silvio Marcacci reported in CleanTechnica that a bi-partisan survey revealed 87 percent of the poll’s respondents support wind power for three major reasons: 1) employment opportunities; 2) energy independence; and 3) national security benefits. And according to a 2014 Navigant poll, 72 percent of Americans support more wind power development.

Public opinion surveys on Cape Wind have found strong statewide support for the project, which also enjoys the endorsement of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Earlier this month, at a Boston press conference, the Governor declared:

“Massachusetts intends to become the hub of the offshore wind industry emerging along the east coast of the United States.”

Additionally, Cape Wind has the support of the Massachusetts State House and among the Commonwealth’s congressional delegation in Washington. In Part three of this series, MA Representative William Keating from Massachusetts’s 9th District shares his optimism for “Massachusetts-made wind power.” Stay tuned!

So, despite the tedious and tenacious opposition to America’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind is gearing up to install its first steel beam in 2015. Cape Wind is tenacious too. It has won an impressive string of 26 legal victories in which a judge recently described litigious project opponents as an “obdurate band” that were engaged in a “vexatious abuse of the democratic process.”

The Obama Administration has been very supportive of offshore wind in general, and of Cape Wind, in particular. The U.S. Interior Department approved Cape Wind, concluding a ten-year permitting review, and on July 1, 2014, the Department of Energy announced a $150 million dollar loan guarantee to assist the financing of the project.

So, as Cape Wind begins installing its foundations in 2015 (adding the wind turbines in 2016 and commissioning the project in 2017), Cape Cod and the country will have entered a new generational landscape–one defined by an awareness of climate change reality, a rapidly growing public demand for clean energy solutions, and the desire to embrace change because the outdated energy model of the 20th century–with all of its social and environmental costs–simply isn’t working anymore.

Could energy in America be growing up?

Cape Wind’s Communications Director, Mark Rodgers, thinks so:

“I would say that there’s tremendous value in having America’s first-in-the-nation offshore wind installation located in Nantucket Sound. It’s an area of the country–like so many others–that is faced with great challenges, but because of our access to an abundant clean energy supply, it holds even greater opportunities that can help preserve our environment and way of life for generations.”

Part two of this story on Cape Wind’s historic evolution focuses on an up close and personal interview with Mark Rodgers, who, along with Cape Wind’s President, Jim Gordon, has been the public face of the company for nearly a generation.

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Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind



SEPT. 13, 2014

Photo Credits: Djamila Grossman, New York Times

Photo Credits: Djamila Grossman, New York Times

HELIGOLAND, Germany — Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.

It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.

Germany’s relentless push into renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago.

Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.

A reckoning is at hand, and nowhere is that clearer than in Germany. Even as the country sets records nearly every month for renewable power production, the changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed.

A similar pattern may well play out in other countries that are pursuing ambitious plans for renewable energy. Some American states, impatient with legislative gridlock in Washington, have set aggressive goals of their own, aiming for 20 or 30 percent renewable energy as soon as 2020.

The word the Germans use for their plan is starting to make its way into conversations elsewhere: energiewende, the energy transition. Worldwide, Germany is being held up as a model, cited by environmental activists as proof that a transformation of the global energy system is possible.

sun_and_wind chart

But it is becoming clear that the transformation, if plausible, will be wrenching. Some experts say the electricity business is entering a period of turmoil beyond anything in its 130-year history, a disruption potentially as great as those that have remade the airlines, the music industry and the telephone business.

Taking full advantage of the possibilities may require scrapping the old rules of electricity markets and starting over, industry observers say — perhaps with techniques like paying utilities extra to keep conventional power plants on standby for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. The German government has acknowledged the need for new rules, though it has yet to figure out what they should be. A handful of American states are beginning a similar reconsideration of how their electric systems operate.

“It’s pretty amazing what’s happening, really,” said Gerard Reid, an Irish financier working in Berlin on German energy projects. “The Germans call it a transformation, but to me it’s a revolution.”

The potential payoff for getting the new rules right is enormous: a far greener electricity system that does not pump as much greenhouse gas and other pollution into the atmosphere. Yet as the German experience shows, the difficulties of the transition are likely to be enormous, too, and it is still far from clear whether the system can be transformed fast enough to head off dangerous levels of global warming.

“I am convinced that wind and sun will be the central sources of energy, not only in Germany but worldwide,” said Patrick Graichen, who heads a think tank in Berlin, Agora Energiewende, devoted to studying the shift. “The question is: How can we turn the energy transition into a success story?”

Plummeting Prices

One recent day, under a brilliant California sun, saws buzzed as workers put the finishing touches on spacious new homes. They looked like many others going up in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, but with an extra feature: Lennar Corporation was putting solar panels on every house it built.

The prices of the panels have plunged 70 percent in the past five years. That huge decline means solar power is starting to make more economic sense, especially in parts of the United States with high electricity prices.

At about 100 Lennar subdivisions in California, buyers who move into a new home automatically get solar panels on the roof. Lennar, the nation’s second-largest homebuilder, recently decided to expand that policy to several more states, starting with Colorado. The company typically retains ownership of the panels and signs 20-year deals to sell homeowners the power from their own roofs, at a 20 percent discount from the local utility’s prices.

“It’s so simple when we tell a customer, ‘You’re guaranteed to save money,’ ” said David J. Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, the division overseeing the solar plan.

The shifting economics can largely be traced to China, by way of Germany. Over the past decade, the Germans set out to lower the cost of going green by creating rapid growth in the once-tiny market for renewable power.

Germany has spent more than $140 billion on its program, dangling guaranteed returns for farmers, homeowners, businesses and local cooperatives willing to install solar panels, wind turbines, biogas plants and other sources of renewable energy. The plan is paid for through surcharges on electricity bills that cost the typical German family roughly $280 a year, though some of that has been offset as renewables have pushed down wholesale electricity prices.

The program has expanded the renewables market and created huge economies of scale, with worldwide sales of solar panels doubling about every 21 months over the past decade, and prices falling roughly 20 percent with each doubling. “The Germans were not really buying power — they were buying price decline,” said Hal Harvey, who heads an energy think tank in San Francisco.

The ripple effects drove some American panel manufacturers out of business, prompting complaints about Chinese government subsidies to the manufacturers who seized much of the market. But the decline also created an opportunity for American homeowners and for companies like Lennar.

Wind power, too, has come down sharply in price in recent years, and it is now competitive with the cost of new coal-burning power plants in parts of the United States.

A Threat to Business

The decline in the cost of renewable power spells potential trouble for companies that generate electricity. They make a lot of their money at times of day when demand for power, and therefore power prices, are high. Solar power, even a small amount, could be especially disruptive, shaving wholesale prices during those peak periods.

Though growing rapidly, solar power still accounts for less than 1 percent of American power generation, so the disruption has not yet been seen on a large scale in the United States. But some utilities, fearful of losing out as the power mix changes, have started attacking rules that encourage solar panels. Others are taking the opposite tack, jumping into the solar market themselves.

Nipping at the heels of those utilities are fast-growing start-up companies that are putting tens of thousands of panels on rooftops and leasing them to homeowners for no money down, with Wall Street banks providing the financing. The hot spot is California, which is aiming for 33 percent renewable power by 2020 and seems increasingly likely to get there.

In Germany, where solar panels supply 7 percent of power and wind turbines about 10 percent, wholesale power prices have crashed during what were once the most profitable times of day. “We were late entering into the renewables market — possibly too late,” Peter Terium, chief executive of the giant utility RWE, admitted this spring as he announced a $3.8 billion annual loss.

The big German utilities are warning — or pleading, perhaps — that the revolution cannot be allowed to go forward without them. And outside experts say they may have a point.

The Achilles’ heel of renewable power is that it is intermittent, so German utilities have had to dial their conventional power plants up and down rapidly to compensate. The plants are not necessarily profitable when operated this way, and the utilities have been threatening to shut down facilities that some analysts say the country needs as backup.

The situation is further complicated by the government’s determination to get rid of Germany’s nuclear power stations over the next decade, the culmination of a long battle that reached its peak after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. As that plan unfolds, shutting down a source of low-emission power, Germany’s notable success in cutting greenhouse gases has stalled.

In fact, the problems with the energiewende (pronounced in-ur-GEE-vend-uh) have multiplied so rapidly in the past couple of years that the government is now trying to slow down the transition. “I think we need a little bit of time,” said Jochen Flasbarth, a deputy minister of the environment.

But the German public is not taking that well. Marching down a Berlin street with thousands of other protesters one recent day, Reinhard Christiansen, the head of a small company focused on renewable energy in the town of Ellhöft, said, “We are afraid they are trying to put the brakes on the energy transformation.”

The chanting demonstrators demanded that the government, far from slowing the transition, find a way to speed it up.

Technological Innovation

As renewable energy sources start to cause gyrations in power supplies and prices, experts contend that clever new market rules could keep the costs reasonable.

Some of the innovations they recommend are already in use to some extent — pioneered in the United States, with Germany avidly studying them. They include regular payments to persuade utilities to keep some fossil-fuel power plants on standby for times when renewable sources lag.

“It’s like a retainer you pay your lawyer to keep her around in case you need her,” said Jay Apt, an electricity expert at Carnegie Mellon University.

But the larger innovations are likely to focus on how people use electricity, rather than on how it is supplied.

Techniques to manage demand have been in limited use for decades, but new technologies are enabling a far more ambitious approach. Apple and Google, for instance, are investing billions in businesses designed to capitalize on the new opportunities, such as by helping homeowners manage their power use with devices like digital thermostats.

Electricity prices, instead of being averaged over a month, could theoretically vary in real time, at least for willing customers. Price spikes would encourage conservation. Conversely, smart chips built into appliances like dishwashers or water heaters could switch the devices on when power was plentiful and prices low. American tests of this approach have been promising.

Other methods could help, too. More high-voltage power lines could link wind farms and solar panels in disparate locations, smoothing out the variations. This is politically difficult, but some such lines are being built in both the United States and Germany.

For Germans, the unpredictability of onshore renewable power explains the appeal of offshore wind. The stiff, steady breezes in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea mean that turbines built there will produce far more power than land turbines.

That is why three utilities have virtually seized control of the tiny resort island of Heligoland, renting out one hotel for 10 years straight. It is the most convenient body of land to use as an operations base for the huge wind farms they are installing, with long-range plans to go as far as 125 miles offshore.

The streets of the island are thronged with well-paid workers. “Really, all areas on Heligoland are profiting,” declared Eike Walenda, the manager of a local outfitter and fueling station.

The costs of building in the sea are far higher than on land, of course. The price tag of up to $30 million per turbine is not just for the machine itself, but also for power cables, installation and many other items. To induce utilities to go forward, the government has had to guarantee them power prices of several times the market rate.

But, just as with earlier forms of renewable technology, the Germans expect the costs of harnessing offshore wind to drop sharply as the market grows over the coming decade. If that happens, the United States could be a big beneficiary. Studies have shown that offshore wind could supply as much as 15 to 20 percent of the power needed by East Coast cities, and construction is about to start on a handful of American projects.

For now, the German offshore farms are adding billions to the costs consumers are already bearing for solar panels, onshore wind turbines, biogas plants and the rest of the transition to renewable energy. Polls suggest it is a burden they are willing to carry.

“Indeed, the German people are paying significant money,” said Markus Steigenberger, an analyst at Agora, the think tank. “But in Germany, we can afford this — we are a rich country. It’s a gift to the world.”

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BCC Students see green jobs in their future at South Terminal

By Ariel Wittenberg, Standard-Times
Photo Credits: John Sladewski

Photo Credits: John Sladewski

The construction site at South Terminal on Tuesday was full of hope: Hope that the project would be completed on schedule, hope that the offshore wind industry would jump-start domestically and use the facility, hope that the 10 or so Bristol Community College students touring the facility would one day be employed there.

The students, enrolled in wind power and pre-apprenticeship certificate programs at BCC, were on site at the invitation of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which owns the terminal, in order to give them a sense of the jobs they could hold once their programs are completed.

“I would love to work here,” said Norman Rebeiro II, who is in the pre-apprenticeship program. Rebeiro said his six kids were his motivation for joining the BCC program. But he said he was interested in South Terminal for another reason: “I think it’s important to have sustainability in our area and our world.”

Rebeiro was like many of the students touring the facility Tuesday who were drawn to the program not just by the need for a bigger paycheck, but also because they see clean energy, and therefore offshore wind, as an important part of the region’s economic and environmental future.

John Carlisle said he was fascinated by the first-hand view of how the terminal was being put together and hoped to work there after he completes his wind power certificate.

“This offshore wind is supposed to be a growing industry,” he said. “It’s good to get into it now so I’m ahead of the future, and also so we have something sustainable to show the next generation.”

Accompanying the group was Chris DiGregario, who had applied to the BCC pre-apprenticeship program earlier in the day. A career counselor had heard he was interested in solar panels and suggested he go on the tour to learn more about wind power instead.

“I mean, anyone can learn how to slap some lights up on a house and make them turn on,” he said. “I want to go green. If everyone became green the world would be a much better place.”

Both BCC certificate programs are free to students, sponsored by a grant from MassCEC, which has come under fire by city minority groups for not having enough local or minority hires at South Terminal.

As the students toured the facility Tuesday, students were greeted by terminal workers, some of whom were from the city, who gave the students advice on future careers.

Derrick Johnson, the labor foreman, told them how he fell in love with being a laborer after going to school for architecture.

“College isn’t for everyone, but you have to have some kind of skill,” he said. “Being a laborer is hard work, it’s grunt work, but it’s honest and it’s profitable work, too.”

Dan Clark, an apprentice with the pile drivers union, told the students how much he had learned being on the job at South Terminal and how much he appreciated the job’s larger mission.

“When this job is done, I just hope I get a chance to go work on the windmill projects,” he said. “If that offer came around I’d take it in an instant.”

Original Story:

Moving Forward on Offshore Wind in New Bedford: If You Build It, Clean Energy Will Come

By Chris Halfnight, NRDC

Posted August 11, 2014

A short walk from the famous Whalemen’s Chapel of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, offshore wind power is getting a major push. With construction of a new, $100-million marine commerce terminal well underway in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the city is on track to become a central hub for the emerging offshore wind industry in the United States – good news for the local economy, wind developers, and clean energy advocates alike. Recently, I had a chance to tour the site for this new marine commerce terminal and learn more about its goals and prospects. I’m grateful to Apex Companies’ Project Manager Dario Quintana for showing me around, and to Bill White and Matt Kakley at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for arranging the visit.

Called the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, the new port is the first of its kind in North America, specifically designed with the size and heavy capacity necessary to be a major staging ground for assembling and deploying large offshore wind turbines along the Atlantic coast. Developed by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center – a key force behind the state’s nation-leading support for clean energy policies – the 28-acre terminal sits just north of New Bedford harbor’s hurricane barrier. In addition to handling offshore wind, the terminal is also designed to manage other forms of bulk, container, and large specialty marine cargo.

Governor Deval Patrick broke ground on the project in the spring of 2013. On my recent visit, the future terminal was beginning to take shape: over the past year, the project team has filled and built much of the dock’s foundation and remediated contaminated soils in the harbor, which is a Superfund site. Construction is set to finish this coming December, with completion of a newly dredged, 30-foot-deep shipping lane to accommodate the large-scale vessels used in assembling and installing offshore wind turbines.

This impressive new terminal is helping revitalize New Bedford, a city with 350 years of maritime history and once the world’s preeminent whaling port. It’s also heralding the imminent rise of a new and robust American industry: offshore wind power, which the Department of Energy estimates could create by 2030 more than 43,000 permanent jobs, along with 1.1 million job-years in manufacturing and installation.

Indeed, the terminal is already bringing significant benefits to the local economy: about 40% of the project’s 120 jobs have gone to South Coast residents, the terminal’s general contractor is New Bedford-based Cashman-Weeks NB, and construction has relied on supplies and services from at least ten local businesses – a huge boon for a city that has suffered high unemployment in recent years.

New Bedford is well positioned to help Massachusetts capture substantial first-mover benefits from the emerging offshore wind industry, including a wealth of local jobs and economic development – a head start on building a skilled workforce that may soon be in high demand along the east coast. The potential windfall for first-movers is enormous, with the federal government having already designated more than 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic coast for wind energy development – a total area that could feasibly provide over 16,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity capacity and could power more than 5 million homes. The New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal is located and engineered to be able to handle the staging, assembly, and deployment for many of these potential projects. One of these developments – the nearby Cape Wind offshore wind project – has cleared all of its regulatory hurdles and is set to begin construction in the next year.

New projects in the area are also on the way: last September, Deepwater Wind secured the nation’s first competitive lease in federal waters off Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The company plans to develop approximately 1000 megawatts of generating capacity in the site, which it estimates would power 350,000 homes and displace more than 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide annually – equivalent to removing four million cars from our roads. And, on the same day as my visit, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hosted a public meeting in New Bedford to advance the leasing process for another wind energy area 12 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Offshore wind power – with huge potential capacity, no fuel costs, and no air pollution – is set to become a central pillar in our clean energy future. Europe leads the way on offshore wind, with 73 offshore wind projects already producing carbon-free electricity. But momentum is building here in the United States, and continued policy and infrastructure investment will finally bring this enormous clean energy source online. Properly designed and well-sited offshore wind power makes good sense for local and national economies and the environment alike. Massachusetts and New Bedford are smart to invest now in the clean energy future.

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