Leaders in the offshore wind energy industry Wednesday discussed the importance of using specific offshore projects such as Cape Wind as a platform for developing the entire American offshore wind business.
“What this industry needs is a broad push to get people on board, not just project by project but for the industry as a whole,” said Fara Courtney, executive director of the U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative at a meeting in Waltham.
Speaking at a meeting of the Massachusetts Wind Working Group, Courtney described the industry beginning to develop key components in wind turbine development even though the United States is “still waiting for wet steel,” or its first turbine in the water.
Chief among these components is New Bedford’s South Terminal, which has been specifically designed to accommodate the deployment, construction and assembly of offshore wind turbines.
Bill White, director of offshore wind for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, said South Terminal’s 1,000-foot bulkhead capable of holding 4,000 pounds per square foot will make it one of the highest capacity ports in the world. That’s something that will not only be useful for Cape Wind but for future offshore wind projects.
In addition to Nantucket Sound, where Cape Wind intends to build its 128-turbine wind farm, Massachusetts is home to two other so called “wind energy areas.” One is shared with Rhode Island. It covers approximately 164,750 acres and is located 9.2 nautical miles south of the Massachusetts-Rhode Island coastline.
The other, which is “the largest wind area along the East Coast,” according to White, is located 13 nautical miles southwest of Nantucket and extends 33 nautical miles north to south and 47 nautical miles east to west.
“This is an area that can change the world,” White said, adding that the state has already had 10 developers express interest in the area.
Mark Rogers, spokesman for Cape Wind, supported the idea that his project is part of a greater push to develop an offshore wind industry in the United States and, specifically, New England. He said his project will be the stepping stone for creating an offshore wind workforce, starting what he called a “skills transfer” between European laborers familiar with working with turbines and the local workforce, which will need to learn to apply its skills to turbines specifically.
“Once you see several wind farms in development in the U.S., that’s when you’re going to see in-market manufacturing beginning and factories being built for that,” he said.
Joel Whitman, former CEO of Global Marine Energy, which installs transmission cables for offshore wind turbines, called offshore wind a “smoking hot industry” and said Massachusetts should do as much as it can to become involved in environmentally friendly wind energy.
“This is the first time you can produce an amount of energy that is competitive with other sources that will help and not hurt the environment,” he said. “Massachusetts hasn’t had a home-grown energy industry since whaling. That wasn’t so green, but New Bedford’s making up for it this time around by getting in at the ground floor.”
By ARIEL WITTENBERG
January 31, 2013 12:00 AM